“Lots of Losers, Few Winners” in Retail, Says CBS Expert

April 23, 2020

Given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world, with people sheltering in place and refraining from purchasing goods, retailers and specifically department stores “are in for a world of hurt… with lots of losers and few winners,” Mark A. Cohen, Director of Retail Studies at Columbia Business School (CBS), said during the live webinar “Retail Industry in Crisis: Trends, Winners and Losers.”

Sales in US stores dropped by 50% in March, while “the negative numbers will be staggering” for the full month of April, predicted Cohen, who is the former Chairman/CEO of Sears Canada. “No one is selling in brick and mortar stores.”

The pandemic will accelerate customer behavior to make purchases online: those who have avoided e-commerce will opt for alternative marketplaces, while existing customers “will shop online with abandon,” he said. Other formats such as supermarkets that had strong relationships with their customers before the pandemic, will emerge stronger as they continue to service those shoppers.

The interactive live webinar was co-sponsored by the Santiago Center and the CBS Chile Alumni Club, whose president and Santiago Center Advisory Board member Georges de Bourguignon (MBA/MIA’17) moderated the event.