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The worst of the retail apocalypse is on the way

(BUSINESS NEWS) We’ve long lamented the decline of big box retail, but one report says the “Retail Apocalypse” is just beginning and it’s about to get much worse.



store closings retail apocalypse

You have likely already noticed the impacts of what has been darkly dubbed America’s “Retail Apocalypse”: Half-empty strip malls, brightly-colored signs announcing closing sales, or maybe your once-favorite department store has declared bankruptcy.

Whatever you’ve seen, it’s only going to get worse, according to a comprehensive report from Bloomberg, implying certainty in the fall of the retail industry as more than just sensational news headlines.

U.S. retailers announced more than 3,000 store openings in the first three quarters of this year, but that’s coupled with 6,800 chain store closures. All while consumer confidence levels are high and unemployment is low, and the economy keeps growing – a mix you’d think would be conducive to retail growth and strength.

However, more and more retail chains are filing for bankruptcy and financially distressed. This has caused an increase in the number of delinquent loan payments from malls and shopping centers containing said retailers.

So what’s the deal?

No, it’s not because is taking over the world (yet) or because millennials would rather travel than buy more “stuff.”

The primary cause for the retail apocalypse is not buying habits, it is that many failing retail chains are overloaded with debt.

There are billions of dollars tied up in the borrowings of troubled stores, and that strain is going to become even harder for the market to handle.

The impact of retail’s crash and burn will be felt across the country and economy. Low-income workers will be displaced, local tax bases will shrink, and investor losses on stocks, bonds, and real estate will grow.

In a nutshell: It’s only going to get worse.

Until recently, retailers avoided bankruptcy by refinancing their debts. However, as the market has evolved, lenders have become less forgiving, according to the Bloomberg report.

Additionally, an overwhelming amount of risky retail debt is coming due within in the next five years. For example, teen costume jewelry chain Claire’s Stores, Inc. has $2 billion in borrowings that will start maturing in 2019 – and it still has 1,600 stores open in North America.

In fact, $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings are set to mature this year alone and that will jump to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. data cited by Bloomberg. Between 2019 and 2025, that figure will expand to an annual average of almost $5 billion.

And, while the demand for refinancing increases, credit markets are tightening. Thus far, retailers have delayed their doom thanks to the money the Federal Reserve has pushed back into the economy since the Great Recession. Low interest rates made the risker retail debt (and the higher return it brings) more appealing. But now as the Feds raise their benchmark interest rates, that demand will decrease.

Then there’s the matter of store credit cards. The largest private-label card issuer, Synchrony Financial, has already increased reserves in order to help cover loan losses this year. Citigroup, Inc. has reported declining rates on retail portfolios, too. Why? Because shoppers are more likely to stop paying back their retail card debt if the store they went to has closed.

As all this compounds, it could directly impact the industry that employs the largest number of Americans who are at the low end of the income scale. According to Bloomberg’s research, salespeople and cashiers in this industry totaled a whopping eight million. Since our last financial crisis, employment rates have been steadily increasing, even in the retail industry. Until this year, that is. Retail store jobs have decreased by 101,000 this year so far, no thanks to store closures.

Many of the largest U.S. retailers (think Target and Walmart) have decided to reduce their brick-and-mortar space. Sure, the e-commerce boom has taken a toll, but the U.S. has been considered “over-stored” ever since investors poured money into commercial real estate as the suburbs boomed decades ago, which began an era of big box stores.

It’s time for that boom to bust.

At the end of Q3, 6,752 U.S. retail locations were scheduled to close, excluding grocery stores and restaurants, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s more than double the 2016 total and inching close to the all-time annual high of 6,900 recorded in 2008, the midst of the recession.

Clothing stores have taken the hardest hit, as 2,500 locations are closing. Department stores aren’t faring well, either. Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney are all downsizing.

Overall, about 550 department stores plan to close their doors.

This really does sound apocalyptic, doesn’t it?

The consumer impacts of what’s to come will be widespread. Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Illinois have been some of the hardest hit so far, but other states will feel the burn, too. Florida, for example, relies on retail salespeople more than any other state, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by Bloomberg.

Insert a grimacing emoji face here.

I think Charlie O’Shea, a Moody’s retail analyst for Moody’s, summed up the retail industry’s prospects impeccably at the end of Bloomberg’s report: “A day of reckoning is coming,” he said.

Sienna is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and has a bachelor's degree in journalism with an emphasis in writing and editing from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She is currently a freelance writer with an affinity for topics that help others better themselves. Sienna loves French-pressed coffee and long walks at the dog park.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Paul O'Brien

    December 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    As is what’s happening with many other industries, retail’s reckoning will come and through it retailers will wake up to the fact that what people are willing to pay for is experiences.

    What the heck does that mean in this context??

    I’m not going to drive and shop at a local retailer to get the exact same plastic junk or $5 shirt that I can get Amazon to send to me in an hour.

    But let’s not neglect that people like to shop – as an activity or social experience. Shopping isn’t just about consuming the things we want or need – it’s a matter of what it has always been in certain contexts: an experience to see products, hang out with friends, or just spend some time doing something you enjoy.

    The reckoning is in the price competitive stores pushing commodities, aggressive Sales pressure (autos), and regularly purchased products. There is no market for a store front for those things.

    But what we might be excited about that could thrive are the experiences we enjoy: Local artists and products, food & beverage, specializations in innovative goods (tech, apparel, autos), etc.

    “Clothing stores have taken the hardest hit, as 2,500 locations are closing. Department stores aren’t faring well, either. Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney are all downsizing.”
    — Yeah… because I don’t need to drive, park, and deal with the awful layout of a big box store just to get the same pair of jeans I’ve been buying for the last 20 years.

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Business News

Claire’s deep debt may force them into Chapter 11 bankruptcy

(BUSINESS NEWS) Millennial nostalgia reaches peak levels as decades-old jewelry store Claire’s declares bankruptcy.




Poor, sweet Claire’s. The place I got my ears pierced in fifth grade along with countless other tweens over the years. Where nearly all my accessories from age nine to 19 were purchased.

The place I swore to stop shopping because apparently my skin is allergic to every material they use. Looks like losing me as a customer has had a huge impact, because Claire’s is filing for bankruptcy.

Formerly the go-to haven for all things sparkly, cheap, and sold in multipacks, the fashion accessory chain is now suffering the same fate as many other mall-based retailers.

Although inexpensive accessories remain popular, mall foot traffic has slowed significantly enough that Clarie’s and other retailers are suffering from crushing debt.

Claire’s current debt load is $2 billion, with a $60 million interest payment due March 13 of this year. More pressure is added with $1.4 million due to mature next year as well. Their debt load is over 10 times a key measure of their annual earnings.

Filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy means the decades-old store can remain open while a more formal plan for turnaround is established.

The chain has been around since the early 1970s after a merger. Longtime Claire’s owner Rowland Schaeffer founded Fashion Tress Industries in 1961, which at the time was a worldwide leader in fashion wigs.

By 1973, Schaeffer acquired jewelry chain Claire’s, and renamed the merged companies Claire’s Fashion Accessories. For several decades, the Schaeffer family ran the business, with Rowland’s daughters eventually taking over.

In 2007, Apollo Global Management LLC acquired the business from the Schaeffer family for $3.1 billion. From 2010 to 2013, the company added an additional 350 stores, and had over 2,700 stores globally.

Although the takeover was successful in terms of adding stores, it also added a huge debt to Claire’s, from which it has not been able to recover.

Early in 2017, the company withdrew their initial public offering and continued struggling despite operating over 3,000 stores worldwide.

As part of the Chapter 11 agreement, business control will pass from Apollo Global Management LLC to other lenders.

To stay afloat, they plan on selling merchandise in CVS Pharmacies and Giant Eagle supermarkets in hopes of reaching customers outside of the standard mall habitat Claire’s previously occupied.

So while Claire’s isn’t dead quite yet, you may want to stock up on BFF necklaces and 20-pair earring sets while you still have the chance.

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Business News

Toys ‘R’ Us to close all stores by week’s end?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Toys “R” Us just announced they’re dying, and fast. As in SURPRISE, all their stores might be closed by the end of the week fast.



toys r us

Following on the heels of Claire’s filing Chapter 11, the bankruptcy boogie man took things to the next level with Toys “R” Us, passing their fate along to the grim reaper of retail.

Last September, the toy retail giant filed for bankruptcy. A $3.1 billion loan kept them alive for a while, but so far, lenders haven’t issued a debt restructuring, and no buyers have stepped up.

In January this year, the store announced around 180 of their 880 U.S. locations would be closing, affecting over 4,500 employees. Then in February, another 200 stores got added to the chopping block due to poor performance over the holiday season.

Recent closures began in February, and are expected to take place through mid-April. Oh except that actually all of the United States stores may be closing. This week.

According to anonymous inside sources, Toys ‘R’ Us may end up liquidating their U.S. stores if a deal can’t be reached to settle the debt.

A huge portion of corporate staff will also be laid off. Worldwide, Toys R Us has over 1,600 stores that stock major brands, who are also suffering from this announcement.

Hasbro’s stock fell 3.5 percent last Friday, and Mattel took a 7.0 percent hit. Recent regulatory filings from both companies indicate that Toys ‘R’ Us made up nearly 10 percent of their overall sales.

Spin Master, owner of the crazy popular Hatchimals brand, fell 3.0 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Amazingly, even Lego reported their first sales drop in the last thirteen years.

While Toys R Us closing everything would certainly have an impact on major toy companies, fortunately, several other avenues exist for getting products to customers.

Other major retailers like Walmart and Target will likely see a boost to their toy sales, and local toy stores may fare well with at least one giant competitor slain.

So it’s not like you’re totally out of luck if you want to buy the next new thing. You just probably can’t go to Toys “R” Us anymore.

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Business News

3 educational models that apprenticeships are stumping

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apprenticeships are taking off, and disrupting various sectors, including education – but how?




We’re obsessing over the rapidly growing concept of apprenticeships as a way to accelerate careers and give employers meaningful ways to educate and employ. The internship model is often useless and people leave with little more than having memorized a list of coffee orders. One of the few success stories in the apprenticeship game is Digital Creative Institute (DCI), which is headquartered in Texas right near us.

Have a five minute conversation with anyone at DCI, and you’ll see why they’re leading the apprenticeship movement. I recently asked them about how the model disrupts education – they had so much expertise on the topic, that we asked them to put pen to paper, and boy did they.

Below, in the words of Alexis Bonilla at DCI are the three educational models that apprenticeships are stumping:

“Apprenticeship” is the word on the street right now – the hot topic everyone is talking about. You probably know the basics, but we’re sure you still have a few questions. We’re going to try and answer the big, looming question: How does it compare to more traditional learning platforms?

We recently had a conversation surrounding technologists and the best way for them to learn coding. We explored Master’s Programs, bootcamps/coding schools, and teaching yourself while on the job. Then apprenticeships came up, and we decided to talk to the ones who designed the digital marketing apprenticeship here in Austin – Digital Creative Institute.

To sum it up, an apprenticeship is an educational structure where you work while you learn. A few nights a week you’ll take classes and work on projects and certifications, all while holding down a full-time job in the field you are studying. For a more in-depth look at apprenticeships, check out our article, ‘Apprenticeships: How focused training can jumpstart your career’.

Master’s Programs

For a lot of people, getting your Master’s Degree after graduation seems like the logical next step in their career path. But have you ever compared everything that goes into it to what you get out of it? On average, you spend about $60,000 on Grad School and 2 years in the program. The digital marketing apprenticeship structure is $12,000 and only takes one year. Because you’re in a full time role, apprentices graduate from the program with little or no debt and still earn throughout the year. Apprenticeships require only a fifth of the cost and deliver twice the experience.

You get training from the program, but the most valuable experience is what is acquired in the workplace. That’s the big differentiator. Instead of theoretical career situations, you are really experiencing them, and what makes it even better – it’s with the support of peers, mentors, and career coaches.

Of course the downside to apprenticeships is that there is a lack of recognition that exists in the United States right now compared to the more universal recognition you would get with an MBA. In the apprenticeship structure, that is made up for in the presentation of the portfolio work. Instead of simply presenting a degree to an employer, imagine presenting the prospective employer a presentation on how you created an email marketing campaign, how you solved a broken automation workflow, and how you achieved an impressive coding project. Which is more compelling?

Digital Bootcamps

Bootcamps began in 2012, and since then have grown more than 10x. They started off with about 2,000 enrollments and since then have jumped to around 22,000 in 2017. There’s no arguing that this educational model is on the rise, but we would argue that apprenticeships are preparing to make that same jump.

Bootcamps are quick courses on a specific subject that offer some kind of certificate of completion. They are great for getting overviews and basic knowledge, all while being time sensitive. So if you need a quick informational or refresher course, bootcamps are the way to go.

The benefit to apprenticeships is that you get more relevant and in-depth training for whatever it is that you’re studying. For example, the Digital Creative Institute Digital Marketing Apprenticeship doesn’t just look at marketing automation, email marketing, or web design, it looks at all of it and more. You might think you are going into it wanting to specialize in a certain topic, and then learn about something that is much more well suited to your needs and skill sets.

The average cost and timeline for a coding bootcamp is $11.4k for 3.5 months. The 15 month approach to the apprenticeship allows you to apply learning over a longer period of time, that way you have an even greater opportunity for application and personal transformation. A few weeks for a bootcamp just simply isn’t enough to answer all of your questions – some that you may not even know you have yet!

Apprenticeships have the advantage of situational and experiential learning, whereas bootcamps are limited to the examples the instructor thinks of. And because a majority of bootcamps are online, questions are limited as well. The apprenticeship structure allows for a year of personal development and professional training.

Again, it’s pay and pray vs earn and learn. Pray you paid to get the right resources in a short amount of time, or earn a salary while you invest 15 months into your career.

Teaching Yourself

Why not just teach yourself? It’s all on YouTube. There are millions of articles, infographics, and resources. Why pay for something when you can do it without any help?

Perhaps the greatest resources that apprenticeships offer are mentorship and career coaching. This takes your journey from a limited perspective to an experienced one. Coaching gives you direction and guidance from industry leaders in your field, and that’s really hard to put a price on. Forbes did put a price on it, however, reporting that the mean ROI of career coaching is 7x the initial investment. You gain the value of connections, resources, and lifelong relationships as well.

Just one introduction or opened door could be game-changing for your career and in itself prove the ROI of an apprenticeship. In fact, 70% of people in 2016 say they were hired somewhere where they had a connection. In the apprenticeship structure, you won’t have the same teacher week-by-week. You have industry leaders such as CEO’s, CMO’s, authors, and more teaching you specific sections of the curriculum based on their specialized experience. You present work, ask questions, and most of the time, you stay connected long after the class. You make connections it would have been really hard to make otherwise.

So although there may be a lot of time and money saved in teaching yourself certain skills, having the input of industry leaders, peers, and coaches will always be more valuable. There will be more time and money saved in mistake prevention, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of knowledge and wisdom you gain in carrying out your career path.

Apprenticeships are a new wave of education, skill building, and career preparation. They create a learning environment while maintaining a professional standard. Apprenticeships are changing the way we look at education by seamlessly integrating the world of work and learning.


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