Cross Country Checkup

Are your changing shopping habits killing the department store and the mall?

The 2017 Retail Apocalypse...that's what they're calling so many stores closing in malls all over North America. Sears is the latest, and when the anchor store leaves, the mall often goes too. Could this spell the end of the department store, the indoor mall, and its community meeting space?
A closed Sears store is seen in Dartmouth, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Sears Canada Inc. has decided to shut its doors and is seeking approval to liquidate its roughly 130 remaining store, leaving another 12,000 employees across the country without a job. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode1:53:00

Death by Amazon

They are signs of the times. Bright yellow banners with enticing slogans... "Store Closing," "Everything 20-50% Off," and "Everything Must Go"... splashed across the entrances of Sears Canada stores.

The Sears liquidation sales this past week mean bargain-hunting to some... end of an era to others. Since the 1950s, Canadian kids have leafed through the glossy pages of Sears catalogues, dreaming of what might be under the Christmas tree. And Kenmore-brand appliances are fixtures in kitchens and laundry rooms across the land.
Host of Cross Country Checkup, Duncan McCue. (Kevin Van Paassen)

Nostalgia aside, the closure of roughly 130 Sears Canada stores will hurt current and former workers — 16,000 employees are out of work without severance. But it's also part of a growing trend: the Retail Apocalypse of 2017.

That's what they're calling so many stores closing in malls all over North America. 

The Sears saga is just the latest problem for Canadian shopping malls. Eatons, K-mart, Target, Woolco, Woodwards, and Zellers... remember them? Those once familiar department stores were mainstays of the malls. But when the anchor store leaves, the mall often goes too. In the U.S., JC Penny and Macy's have announced hundreds of closures, and a quarter of American malls are expected to be out of business by 2022.

If you shop at Sears, where will you go now? Malls have been our gathering places — a combination of community and commercialism. Are indoor malls as meeting places now an endangered species? What about our cold Canadian winters? Don't we have a special need for indoor public spaces — a place for seniors to exercise and chatter, and teens to hang out? Are you one of the many shifting to shopping online? If so, and if local retailers continue to suffer "death by Amazon, " where is the new town square in cyber space?

Our question: "Are your changing shopping habits killing the department store and the mall?"

Guests

Jerry Hancock, Sears historian and highschool history teacher based near Atlanta, Georgia

Detlev Zwick, associate professor of marketing at Schulich School of Business

Shauna Brail, professor and director of Urban Studies Program at the University of Toronto

David Soberman, Canadian National Chair in strategic marketing and professor at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

What we're reading

CBC.ca

National Post

The Globe and Mail

Maclean's

The Guardian

The Atlantic

Time

Business Insider

Washington Post

Bloomberg

Global

Wikipedia