b'THE NUMBER By Mark MathewsOF RETAIL STORES For every retailer CONTINUES closing stores in 2019TO GROW FIVE RETAILERS ARE OPENING STORESWiththebankruptcyofBarneysintheAccording to Census Bureau data, 2018 saw news,wereboundtoseeanotherrounda net increase in retail stores in the United ofhandwringinginthemediaovertheStates.Therewerealmost3,100more retail apocalypse. The actual data paintsstoresduringthefourthquarterof2018 a very different picture, though. As the just- than the same quarter a year earlier. Whats releasedRetailRenaissanceAGrowthinterestingisthattheincreaseappeared StoryreportfromIHLGrouppointsout,retailstoresaretobedrivenbysmallerstores:Storeswithfewerthanfive definitely not going away. According to the report, for eachemployees were the big gainers, with a net increase of 4,569 companyclosingstores,5.2areopeningstores.Foreveryas of the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same time in segment of retail, there are more companies opening stores2017.than closing stores. Even the much-maligned department store category has more brands opening stores than closing them. Withsomanybillion-dollarbrandsthat shape our retail consciousness, its easy to The reality is that the wave of store closuresforget that retail is an industry dominated seen in recent times is being driven by abysmallbusiness:98percentofretail handful of companies. Just 16 retailers areismadeupofsmallbusinesses.This responsible for 73% of retail store closingssegments vibrance is encouraging because so far this year, according to IHL. Retail is ait represents the future of our industry. There might well be a dynamic, fast-changing, highly competitivesmall business opening its first store today that will become a industry and there are no guarantees of success. Consumerdominant player in the next decade. The retail landscape 10 expectationsaregrowingandevolving,andretailersmustyears from now will likely be one where stores still play a vital invest heavily to improve the in-store experience. role in the shopping experience.In the most recent edition of NRFs ConsumerTo learn more, register for IHLs webinar The View report, two-thirds of consumers saidTrue Story of Store Openings/Closings, to technologiessuchasaugmentedandbe held on August 14.virtual reality, smart dressing rooms and in-store navigation apps have improved their in-store experiences. Atthepointofsale,technologiessuchasself-checkout, curbsidepickupandmobilepaymenthavemadechecking outaneasierandmoresatisfyingexperience.ThecostofMark Mathewsimplementing these technologies has been high but it appearsVice President for Research Development and Industry, National Retail Federationto be paying off. If anything, stores remain an integral and growing part of the retail landscape.10 | The Jewelry Business Magazine'