The last 3 months have obviously been difficult on the retail industry due to forced closures of all segments of the industry through the Covid-19 pandemic. As the dusts starts to settle and retail tries to work its way out of the fog, it is clear that changes will be made on all fronts. This entire experience will force retailers to really focus on their customer service more than ever as more people are becoming comfortable with online and delivery services for their consumer needs.
The most obvious groups that must get their act together are apparel and department store retailers who are clearly feeling the biggest impact from the pandemic. These are highlighted by the bankruptcies of JC Penney, Stage Stores, Tuesday Morning, Pier 1 and J. Crew. Many of these groups were heavily leveraged and experienced diminished cash flows during the shutdown. I don’t think it would be a stretch to imagine a world a year or two from now and almost half of the shopping mall department stores are no longer in business unless that sector makes serious changes.
The closures have also been felt in the restaurant sector as well. I anticipate a surplus of available restaurant space that will hit the market over the next 30-60 days. Concepts such as Golden Corral, Cotton Patch Café and Applebee’s have already begun shuttering stores. This should be a prime opportunity for brands that want to expand rapidly and gobble up the market share in their respective genres with a number of great locations available. Overall, I think retail will recover from this as people become anxious to get back to a more normal way of life and the smart retailers will take advantage of those opportunities.