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Catching a Second Wind

Every year, more brick-and-mortar stores close their doors for the final time. Malls and department stores, once a mainstay of American suburbia, are struggling in the age of online shopping. Even well-established brands like Toys “R” Us and Sears are not immune to these trends, both declaring bankruptcy in 2018. The decline doesn’t seem to be letting up in 2019, with retailers shutting down 23% more stores than they did at the start of last year (2000+ store closings), according to Coresight Research. Even stores that have weathered the storm thus far are showing bleak numbers. JC Penney closed 139 stores in 2017, despite aggressive efforts to woo Sephora customers and Sears refugees. Macy’s, its better-faring competitor, is moving away from physical storefronts, cutting its square footage by 13% between 2015 and 2018. Grocery chains like Family Dollar, whose premise of cheap goods was considered “Amazon proof,” has announced the closure of 390 stores in 2019 despite an $8.5B buyout by Dollar Tree. And yet, American consumers are buying at a dizzying pace. E-commerce is booming, with online shopping accounting...

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