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Is Retail Dead or Evolving? A UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Student Discusses What She’s Seeing

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Dire assessments about the future of retail have been plaguing the industry for years. You’ve probably even heard the phrase “retail is dead” bandied around. But according to Areti Moustakis, a second-year MBA student at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, reports of retail’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, she says that in spite of highly publicized store closures and empty storefronts, retail isn’t dying—it’s simply evolving.

“Among the most obvious change is the transition from traditional big-box retailers to smaller, more mobile pop-up shops,” Moustakis writes in a blog on the UNC website. “This trend can be seen across the country in places like New York’s Bryant Park or Dicken’s Fair in San Francisco. The pop-up retail scene has been an emerging fad for years, especially during the periods around Halloween and Christmas, but it is rapidly becoming a more permanent fixture in the retail arena outside of traditional seasonal periods.”

Moustakis goes on to talk about the effect of e-commerce on retail. She writes that e-commerce hasn’t destroyed retail but has required retailers to become more creative about how they connect with their customers, such as through pop-up shops. She explains that pop-ups are flexible and allow retailers to test products with clients to reinvigorate their brand without risking a traditional, long-term lease. Pop-ups are also being used to enhance sales strategies by providing customers access to products in convenient locations.

As for what has made pop-up storefronts possible, a lot of credit can be given to flexible point of sales systems. For example, EMV card readers for mobile devices make it easy for a pop-up shop to compete with the ease of online shopping from home. Landlords have also helped the growth of pop-up shopping. To keep storefronts from being empty, many enterprising landlords have begun to be more flexible about their tenants.

“Assuming this trend continues, customers will likely begin to gravitate more toward the pop-up retail concept, awarding tenants the opportunity to negotiate longer-term leases,” Moustakis writes. “If not, the beauty of the pop-up is the flexibility it provides—the retailer can vacate and make way for a new tenant or simply moved to an alternate location.”

To discover more about the interests of MBA students at UNC Kenan-Flager, visit their business school community blog.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.