The digital age is extensively impacting consumer habits. Retailers are walking on a rocky road with more people spending money on experience over apparel, and with the growth of e-commerce in the US. Not only is this so-called “retail apocalypse” cutting more than 50,000 jobs across America, the decrease in retail stores — especially with anchor retailers such as Sears or Macy’s — is leading to the downfall of numerous department stores.

Closing department stores in the U.S. ⎮ Photograph courtesy of Richmond Times-dispatch

Sears closing store ⎮ Photography courtesy of Huffington Post

While visits to shopping malls in the US declined from 50% between 2010 and 2013, online stores flourish with the influx of e-commerce. Amazon’s apparel sales have risen from 1% to 8% within the past 10 years (Morgan Stanley, 2016). This year they are expected to surpass Walmart to become the first apparel retailer in the US, which goes to show how the problem lies not within retailers themselves, but the shift in consumer tastes, styles and shopping habits.

American Apparel store clearance sales ⎮ Photograph courtesy of Racked

Wet Seal store ⎮ Photograph courtesy of The American Genius

It is therefore wise that some brands are exploring the online scene and becoming more equipped to adapting in the fashion world. Failure to connect with digitally absorbed consumers lead to bankruptcy as evident with some American contemporary stores, that have recently been closed down. Labels inclusive of American Apparel, Wet Seal, and NastyGal had increasing global clearances this past year. Though some may see these massive discounts as another one of the store’s annual sales, it is very much symbolic of ongoing challenges in the fashion industry.

e-commerce ⎮ Photograph courtesy of The Telegraph

This shift is largely due to the increasingly convenient access to the internet that connects consumers to creative influences such as music, art, and fashion. Hence consumers are becoming more engaged in the moment, taking on new tastes quickly. This causes brands adapting on a slow momentum, to be easily eliminated and surpassed by the speed of the internet.

Urban outfitters store ⎮ Photo courtesy of Destination center-ville

Urban Outfitters, however, is an exception to the apocalypse as its 2.9% annual sales increase establishes a stark contrast with retail competitors. Instead of being a liability, the “brandlessness” of Urban Outfitters makes the brand flexible, constantly able to highlight trends that work best in the market. They consistently adapt to the real world by narrowing down, refining and repackaging the best styles from streets, runways and social media in real time. This is evident from their nimble branding that has touched upon various themes ranging from vintage, to gothic, to feminine and more. Having a tendency to combine nostalgic and contemporary styles. Urban Outfitters make themselves relevant by being sensitive to the changing fashion world.

Urban Outfitters store ⎮ Photograph Courtesy of Square One

The paradigm shift is expected to continually impact retail dramatically. Not only does this affect employers and brands, but also the large scale economy. Perhaps the retail industry would see a much brighter future if more brands were to take inspiration from Urban Outfitter’s assets that take advantage of the ever-changing fashion scene.

Many thanks to the referenced websites for press materials.


Peterson (2017) The retail apocalypse is changing what it means to be a teenager [Online] Available at [Accessed 12/07/17]

Berlinger (2017) Teenage Dream: How Urban Outfitters is navigating a rocky retail scene [Online] Available at [Accessed 12/07/17]

Peterson (2017) The retail apocalypse has officially descended on America [Online] Available at [Accessed 12/07/17]