Navigating the ‘retail apocalypse’: A framework of consumer evaluations of the new retail landscape

Sabrina Helm, Soo Hyun Kim, Silvia Van Riper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Strong signals exist for a permanent restructuring of retailing, where traditional physical retailers may not fully recover. Such transformation will have vast implications for consumers, the industry, and society in general. This study explores U.S. consumers’ evaluations of these profound changes sometimes referred to as the ‘retail apocalypse.’ Two studies, a content analysis of reader comments in response to articles featuring reports on large-scale store closures, and structured online consumer interviews, provide insights into consumers’ perspectives. We include consumer-derived explanations for the decline in physical retail, and the growth of online shopping, as well as anticipated consequences for both, individual consumers and society in general, in a conceptual framework. We find many consumers lamenting the disappearance of physical retailers. Most expect negative consequences for themselves and society. However, many consumers also describe physical retailers as often unable to deliver on basic retail functions, and many are accepting of a future with very few physical stores. Based on these findings, we develop practical implications for the retail industry and public policy, as well as future research opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101683
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Channel choice
  • Online shopping
  • Physical stores
  • Retail apocalypse
  • Retail change
  • Retail transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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