The Department Store Identity Crisis, Part 1

Department stores’ decline has been blamed largely on consumers’ growing preference for online shopping, namely at Amazon.com. I can’t argue with that. I’m one of those consumers. Even before the Internet, I was never crazy about shopping. I only do it when I need something. Once I buy it, I’m ready to go home.

Of course, not everyone who prefers online shopping is an introvert like me. The Internet offers customers all just about anything they could want from anywhere in the world. Online shopping saves time and effort spent traveling from store to store. It eliminates waiting in long checkout lines. It’s easy and it’s fast.

However, online shopping and in-person shopping aren’t mutually exclusive. Customers still like brick-and-mortar stores. Maybe they like to see the products, touch them and try them on before deciding whether or not to buy them. Maybe they don’t have time to wait for shipping. Maybe they simply like the experience. They like the hunt and the bonding that comes with it. Shopping is more than just a transaction.

So yes, Internet retailers are taking a significant amount of department stores’ business, but that’s not the whole story. Department stores need to take a hard look at themselves too, and that’s what I’ll discuss in the next few posts. Now I may not have one of them fancy business degrees like those big city corporate types, but I have observed a lot of customer behavior over the years, and I can give opinions. That’s just what I’m going to do in the next few posts.

Note: The main focus will be Macy’s, only because it’s my most recent experience. I’ll also address Sears, but my observations are based on what I remember from 2010, so they may not be as relevant. I have no direct experience with J.C. Penney, but I’ve read some things.

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