Attention Shoppers: Retail Ice Age Ahead

"Best Bargains in Modern Retail History"

The Mother of All Clearance Sales is expected when stores reopen

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NEW YORK, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) - What is retail going to look like when the pandemic is over? "I'm expecting a retail ice age," said Burt Flickinger of Strategic Resources. "We've been forecasting it for five years, but it's being accelerated right now. It's Dicken-esque. It's the worst of times, but also the best of times."

Flickinger thinks food retail is the bridge to save Western New York retail. The longtime analyst just finished a seminar with the International Council of Shopping Centers and 1400 retail CEOs. He told them the key to survival is for local shopping malls or shopping centers to put food focused retailers into abandoned stores. He called the plan a "requiem" for struggling malls.

"For example, BJ's just took Macy's lease in the second bigget shopping center in Long Island. A BJ's Wholesale Club is going in there. Costco is doing a similar deal to takeover a former Sears in Chicago. Food retail will bring in higher customer counts and that will complement the other stores," he said.  Food retail is seen as especially important with so many restaurants closed and a big shift toward home cooking.

 Big box stores like Best Buy,Target, Walmart and others have been able to capitalize on their digital expertise and stay relevant during the pandemic. As a result, they all thrived during the fiscal first quarter. But Macy's and other mall-based clothing retailers like Victoria's Secret struggled to adapt. Macy's sales were down 45% and the department store chain says it could have a loss of at least $1 billion in the quarter. It took Macy's nine weeks starting in late March to introduce curbside pickup at 300 stores, or about 40% of all of its stores. That compared to Best Buy, which took just 48 hours to roll out the service at nearly all of its 1,000 locations.

Flickinger also sees an explosion in the birth rate from babies to puppies and kittens. "Pet category dominant retail like Petsmart, Petco, Bed Bath & Beyond and their Buy Buy Baby chain will help revitalize malls and plazas.

With a record number of retail bankruptcies, and with stores having more stock than they can sell, shoppers can expect big bargains in the coming weeks. Some have called it the mother of all clearance sales. "This will be the best in modern retail history," said Flickinger.


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