Sales Slump in U.S. Reflects Changing Retail Landscape

Retail sales experienced their worst stretch of two months in over two years between February and March, showed government data released in the U.S. on Friday.

The Census Bureau announced that retail sales overall declined by 0.2% during March driven by fuel prices that were lower and lower profits for automakers.

The National Retail Federation or NRF said a delay in the issuance of tax refunds by the government also had contributed to less spending.

Weaker than had been expected sales in February and March might also be a reflection of the changes occurring in the overall retail landscape.

The changes including consumers spending more online and less in brick and mortar traditional stores has led to many store closures and bankruptcies. Close to 3,500 stores throughout the U.S. expect to be shuttered in the next few months, including some from big chains such as Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Macy’s.

Analysts have said that other industries went through huge transformations, including the banking industry as there was twice the number of banks 15 years ago as there are today. Consolidations take place as it is a natural phenomenon in market economies.

This phenomenon in retail has been driven by demographic shifts and new technology that have changed how people shop. Millennials, those who reached their adult age at the beginning of the 21st century said an analyst, are a great example of how there has been a change in buying habits.

Analysts said the millennials are much more comfortable using new technology, they do not buy the same products as baby boomers did and they are on a different route as far as career and spending are considered.

Others say it is all related to the onset of e-commerce over the past decade and a rapid rise of m-commerce, or the ability to purchase nearly anything from a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.

Mobile commerce in 2012 was still marginal, but it now accounts for close to 20% of all purchases made online, said one analyst.

However, while retail companies online such as Amazon.com have been amongst the largest beneficiaries, analysts said e-commerce still only accounts for a small piece of the entire retail pie.

Retail experts have predicted that more traditional brick and mortar stores will be shuttered in the U.S. over the coming years.

The U.S. had the largest ratio in the world of retail space per capita at 23.5 sq. feet of shopping space for each person.

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