The Wall Street Journal - Monday, April 24, 2017

The changes e-commerce is forcing on the physical retail world are accelerating. Brick-and-mortar stores are shuttering at a record pace this year, and experts say the rash of closings is only the beginning, the WSJ’s Suzanne Kapner reports. Last week, Bebe Stores Inc. and Rue21 Inc. became the latest mall staples to announce they would shut down hundreds of locations, pushing the number of closed stores to nearly 3,000 this year. The growth of online shopping is the primary force behind the trend, but not the only one. Also to blame: a decades-long rush by retail chains to open as many locations as possible, fueled in recent years by record-low interest rates. Some analysts compare the rise and fall of mall staples like The Limited and Wet Seal to the housing boom and bust. Some retailers, including discounter TJX Cos., continue to expand, though that chain’s brands thrive by stealing customers from ailing department stores. Much of the rest of the industry has given up waiting for a recovery at the mall, and are hoping increased online sales can make up for a permanent in-store slump.

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