The rise of e-commerce is hollowing out suburban shopping malls and accelerating demand for warehouses that would enable same-day delivery. Even in the world of financial services, brick and mortar is on the decline.
The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades. About one out of every 10 Americans works in retail. “There is a sea change happening in the retail industry,” said Mark Cohen, a former executive at Sears, who now runs the retail studies program at Columbia Business School. “And that is bringing a sea change in employment.” Store closures, meanwhile, are on pace this year to eclipse the number of stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008. Back then Americans, mired in foreclosures and investment losses, retrenched away from buying stuff.