Generally, retailers are
considered an optimistic bunch, but a new survey has revealed some
sobering results about the opportunities they see ahead or the lack
More than half, or 54 percent, of traditional retailers say their
businesses are just surviving as they head into 2019, according to
the survey by accounting firm BDO of big box, department stores,
discount stores and specialty retailers.
BDO’s survey of 300 csuite executives found two camps: “survivors”
who report being stable and breaking even, and the “thrivers,” who
identify as profitable and say they are experiencing robust growth.
“The majority of retailers are stuck in survival mode,” said Natalie
Kotlyar, a national leader of BDO’s consumer products practice in a
report released Wednesday. “Playing catchup in perpetuity is
preventing retailers from seizing new opportunities and leapfrogging
Here are the challenges that are keeping top executives at U.S.
retail companies up at night:
■ The survey found that most survivors are taking a wait-and-see
attitude about the prospects of a recession. But of those who
identify as thriving, 51 percent are actively preparing for an
economic downturn and 52 percent believe retail bankruptcies will
rise in 2019.
■ They’re all spending money on their e-commerce operations, however
1-in-3 thrivers are planning to grow their store counts, including
■ Respondents were confused about whether or not to join Amazon’s
ecosystem. About 70 percent said they believe the cons of partnering
with Amazon outweigh the pros. Only 9 percent of retailers see
exclusive products as Amazon’s biggest advantage over their
■ Only 41 percent are planning to significantly invest in improving
their understanding of customer behavior over the next 12 to 18
The National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group,
said Tuesday that it expects retail sales to rise in the range of
3.8 percent to 4.4 percent this year. That compares with an
estimated 4.6 percent increase in U.S. retail sales in 2018, pending
an update from the Commerce Department, which hasn’t yet reported
December due to the government shutdown.
Already in 2019, U.S. retailers have announced 1,678 store closures
and 1,399 store openings, according to Coresight Research.