Tiffany & Company has announced a three-year renovation of its flagship store on Fifth Avenue, including an expansion of its retail space.CreditCreditSarah Blesener/Bloomberg

By Michael Corkery
The New York Times
Sept. 3, 2018

Hard Lessons (Thanks, Amazon) Breathe New Life Into Retail Stores
Malls are being hollowed out. Shops are closing by the thousands. Retailers are going bankrupt.

But it may be too early to declare the death of retail. Americans have started shopping more — in stores.

From the garden section at Walmart to the diamond counters at Tiffany & Company, old-school retailers are experiencing some of their best sales growth in years.

The strong revenues start with a roaring economy and an optimistic consumer. With more cash in their wallets from the tax cuts, Americans have been spending more.

The boom also reflects a broad reordering of the $3.5 trillion industry, with fewer retailers capturing more of the gains. Stores that have learned how to match the ease and instant gratification of e-commerce shopping are flourishing, while those that have failed to evolve are in bankruptcy or on the brink.

“The retailers that get it recognize that Amazon has forever changed consumer behavior,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor and former director of the retailing center at the Wharton School. “I shouldn’t have to work to shop.”

Many successful stores are now a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge.

Target’s shoppers can order sunscreen or a Tokidoki Unicorno T-shirt on their phone, pull up to the parking lot and have the items brought to their car.

Nordstrom lets customers in some stores make returns by dropping their items into a box and walking out — no human interaction required.

Walmart is employing 25,000 “personal shoppers” to select and package groceries for curbside pickup.

In recent weeks, all three retailers reported stronger-than-expected sales growth for the quarter. Traffic to Target’s stores and online sites grew at its fastest pace since the company began keeping a record a decade ago.

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