Bankruptcy Was Top Theme among Influencer Conversations on Department Stores

The COVID-19 induced economic crisis has hit a wide range of sectors, including retail, with social distancing measures and shift in consumer behavior to go online led to the closure of several department stores. Against this backdrop, bankruptcy emerged as the top theme among influencer conversations related to department store in Twitter during March-August 2020, according to research by GlobalData.

An analysis of GlobalData’s Retail Influencer Platform shows that discussions were up as global iconic retailers such as Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, Century21, Stein Mart, Pier 1, and Lord and Taylor filed for bankruptcy.

Prashant Saxena
Prashant Saxena

Prashant Saxena, influencer expert at GlobalData, said, “Department stores are witnessing decline in footfall due to lockdowns and social distancing measures as customers are not preferring to go out and shop. Realizing the same, several department stores have ventured into online retailing. However, some of the players that did not adopt or were late to adopt any risk mitigation strategy (such as moving to the web) had a detrimental impact on their business performance, with some of them going for store closures, liquidation, or filing for bankruptcy.”

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Some retailers have been looking for prospective buyers to avert liquidation. For instance, on September 9, JCPenney announced agreement with mall owners (Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Group) and some bankruptcy lenders to sell its business.

Aurojyoti Bose, lead analyst at GlobalData, commented, “Several leading retailers are facing the brunt. With sales remaining muted and pressure mounting on the store operators, several have resorted to job cuts, hiring freeze/slowdown to manage costs.”

GlobalData’s Job Analytics Database reveals that Walmart, Costco, Target, The Gap, and Tiffany & Co were among the top retailers that have slowed down hiring drastically during March-August while some store operators such as Dollarama and Metro AG ceased hiring completely for some time.

However, there was a silver lining in the form of food and grocery retail. Food and grocery were the two other most discussed themes related to department store, which witnessed a surge of 260 percent and 110 percent, respectively, among influencer conversations during the reporting period.

Saxena added, “This could be attributed to the panic buying for piling stocks by customers. Food and grocery, being the essential goods, became the consumer priority due to government measures to shut non-essential business.”

Realizing the potential, several mall owners are planning to open more grocery stores in their malls. For instance, in August, US-based Simon Property Group announced that it is looking toward having more grocery stores in its malls.

“Diversified retailers with omni-channel approach coupled with digitalization have survived the COVID-19 crisis. Going ahead, retailers need to revamp their strategy by embracing technological advancement to cope with the dramatic shifts in consumer behavior,” Saxena concluded.

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