Massive Retail Store Closures To Follow The End Of The Pandemic?

Massive Retail Store Closures To Follow The End Of The Pandemic?

There have been a number of reports in the media about impending store closures on a massive scale after the pandemic dissipates. Check out www.RetailDetail.Eu for example, they highlight a worse case scenario where the U.S. loses 150,000 retail stores, Germany loses 80,000 and the UK having already announced the loss of 15,000 stores.

These seemingly apocalyptic figures may prove to be right, or they may turn out to be exaggerated, but what is clear is that the pandemic has (probably permanently) changed shopping habits. For some countries where technology was already a massive driver for retail (like China for instance) the pandemic is likely to have less impact, but for most major western markets the outcome of these crazy times is likely to be a permanent acceleration in the shift to online/mobile shopping.

With national lockdown recently easing in our home market of the UK, we took a look around retail and found things to be pretty desperate overall. A quick trip around the shopping area in the centre of Shrewsbury in the UK suggests at least 25% of stores (of any category not just toys) have not reopened following a 3-month national lockdown.

The reality though is that while retail in general seems likely to see store closures, the toy business is booming in comparison with other retail sectors, and once physical retail becomes a routinely available option once again post pandemic why wouldn’t it remain viable? The world around toy stores may be set for massive change, and all remaining toy stores must have already embraced a physical/digital hybrid model to still be trading, but when you take a look at toy store chains around the world, they have a better chance than many other categories of retail because toy sales have boomed during the pandemic, and we all know the underlying drivers suggest there is unlikely to be a catastrophic drop in demand.

Those who have been in the toy business a while know that there has never been a time when toy retail has been easy. It is supremely competitive and has been for all of living memory. While high streets and shopping malls around the world may have to deal with a significant change from retail to entertainment and dining/coffee outlets, at this stage it is hard to see physical toy retail disappearing en masse.

Our recent interview with Rick Derr of Learning Express toys for our Playing At Business podcast suggests that physical retailers can thrive if they adapt & learn new ways to compete and play the game. Check out that interview here:

While we’re all waiting to see what the world will look like post pandemic, we can at least take heart from the reopening of specialist toy stores in various markets. This week we visited a Smyths Toy store in the UK, and found it to be impeccably merchandised, full of happy families and full of must have toy products. It was a truly joyous experience, and that type of joy will not drift away after the pandemic. Toy retail will remain tough but nevertheless, there are significant reasons why there is still a place for toy stores going forward, for which we should be thankful.


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Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business: