How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Reshaping the Future of Retail

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A pedestrian walks by closed stores in San Francisco, Calif.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Empty storefronts and going-out-of-business sales had become commonplace in shopping centers nationwide even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Retailers of all sizes had struggled for years to navigate online shopping, changing consumer behavior, and increasing competition. Now that stay-at-home orders have forced most stores to close, the industry is facing an existential crisis. Experts expect thousands of brick and mortar locations to close permanently. Suburban mall staple J.C. Penney Co., luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group Inc., and preppy clothes purveyor J.Crew Group, Inc. have filed or are close to filing for bankruptcy. We discuss how the coronavirus pandemic has battered the retail industry, shifts in consumer spending habits, and what shopping will look like in the future.


Steve Barr, global consumer markets leader based in San Francisco, PwC, a global accounting and professional services firm

John Cumbelich, founder and chief executive officer, John Cumbelich & Associates, a Walnut Creek-based retail brokerage firm

Noella Teele, founder and owner, Issues in Oakland

Sara Stokes, store manager, Gesinee's Bridal, a special occasion boutique in Concord