Retail Healthier than Many Think, Research Group Says

IHL Group, a partner of National Retail Federation, the Washington, D.C.–based trade group, released a paper on Aug. 30 that said that tough times for retail have been greatly exaggerated.

In a webinar for reporters, IHL President Greg Buzek said that American retailers opened 4,080 more stores than were closed in 2017. U.S. retailers also plan to open more than 5,500 in 2018.

“The negative narrative that has been out there about the death of retail is patently false,” Buzek said in a prepared statement. “The so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ makes for a great headline, but it’s simply not true. Over 4,000 more stores are opening than closing among big chains, and when smaller retailers are included, the net gain is well over 10,000 new stores. As well, through the first seven months of the year, retail sales are up $121.6 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the total annual retail sales of The Netherlands.”

IHL’s research considered the big picture in retail. Their research considered growth in convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and mass merchandisers. For retailers in the apparel category, store closings were a major factor. In one webinar slide, IHL counted 400 department-store closings and 3,133 closings for specialty softgoods.

The company also noted that all retail categories but department stores have a ratio greater than 1.0 for companies opening rather than closing. It claimed that department-store openings were basically flat. Specialty softgoods retailers were ready for growth of 1.3 percent.