Retailers Take Stock of the Winners & Losers Post Bon-Ton

Sourcing Journal – Though the press has had a lot of fun with the retail apocalypse storyline, former Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said the reality is a lot less dramatic.

Speaking to CNBC, Lundgren said rumors of the demise of department stores circulated throughout his 40-year career, but even with the recent turmoil, it’s not going to happen. “There will be a shake out,” he said. “There’s going to be winners and losers.”

On one end of that spectrum is Amazon and on the other, he said, there’s The Bon-Ton Stores, which recently began liquidation sales following the company’s February bankruptcy filing.

“Amazon has done a great job of attracting this loyalty customer through their Prime program but they’re the only pureplay—if you can still call them that—online retailer in the top 100 retailers,” he said. Further, he said those who are putting too much stock into e-commerce at the expense of brick-and-mortar, are missing the fact that it still only accounts for 10 percent of retail.

As for Bon-Ton, he said the company, which had a mountain of debt, made a fatal mistake that’s all too common these days. “The key is don’t be a highly leveraged retail business because you cannot survive the ups and downs of consumer changes.”

With Bon-Ton out of business, Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, a retail management consulting firm, told Sourcing Journal the effects will be felt across the landscape, resulting in a boon for some and a misfortune for others.

Given that Bon-Ton’s travails were well documented, Kramer said it’s likely the retailer’s competitors were already laying out plans to capitalize on the vacancy.

“The biggest winners will be the regional competitors who already have a strong understanding of the merchandise mix and customer experience that resonated best with Bon-Ton’s customer base,” he said, listing Boxcov’s and Belk as possible benefactors. “The most opportunistic competitors have already been working to negotiate discounted merchandise for the next few seasons to take advantage of the procurement gap that will be created by the Bon-Ton closure.”

Beyond snapping up stock, he also sees opportunity for these stores to tap into Bon-Ton’s credit cardholders, who could be wooed with favorable perks.

Ultimately though, Kramer sees a dim future for some of the company’s landlords. “In many cases, the closing of these stores, which are most often an anchor store in malls, may be the straw that breaks the back of several malls impacted by the store closures across 26 states,” he said, adding the smaller stores in those centers may be hurt as well.

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