For all the talk of the “retail apocalypse” taking place in the US, the reality is that retail overall isn’t dying. E-commerce and Amazon, after all, are part of retail, too, and they’re doing alright.
The suffering is mostly concentrated in brick-and-mortar retailers, particularly malls and department stores. One of the underlying causes is the amount of physical retail space in the US, which grew excessively even as more shopping began taking place online. American retail is in serious need of a diet, and 2017 is forcing it on one.
The size of the issue becomes clear when comparing the square footage of retail space available for lease, both used and unused, per person in the US to other countries. In 2015—the most recent year with comparable data available—the US had about 23.6 sq ft of retail space per person available, according to estimates from PwC. As the Financial Times reported (paywall), that’s more than twice the amount in Australia, and roughly five times that of the UK and other European countries.