Pity the poor shop girl and stock boy, for soon they will follow in the footsteps of the coal miner and autoworker.
Former factory workers and coal miners have roiled American politics in recent years, angered and activated by lousy retraining programs and cuts in public assistance. U.S. auto manufacturing jobs dropped from 1.3 million in 2000 to 942,000 last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of coal miners has dropped from 70,000 in 2003 to 65,400 in 2015.
U.S. retailers have shed 89,000 jobs since October alone, according to federal statistics. Fourteen retail chains have filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter of this year, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Investment bank Credit Suisse reports that retailers have announced 2,880 store closures in the same period, and analysts predict 8,640 stores will close this year.
Tens of thousands of layoffs are on the way.
While experts debate whether manufacturing and mining jobs were lost due to automation or international trade, there is little doubt that retail stores are closing because shoppers are buying more online. Consumers shifted $40 billion in spending from the shopping mall to e-commerce sites last year.
“Stores are closing because of the rise of e-commerce and shifts in how people spend their money,” said Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing a brand/retail strategy consultancy. “Shoppers are devoting bigger shares of their wallets to entertainment, restaurants and technology, and spending less on clothing and accessories.”
Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne told investors during a conference call that retailers built too many stores as internet shopping took off.
“This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst,” Hayne said. “We are seeing the results: Doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate.”
Market research firm Gordon Haskett surveyed American families about their…