Thursday August 20, 2020 |Notes

Ecommerce utilizing bankrupt retailers' assets

Physical retail stores have faced a number of headwinds over the last decade as customers have shifted spending to digital commerce. The pandemic has greatly increased the rate of change and forced many retailers into bankruptcy ahead of 'schedule'. The companies don't simply evaporate. They leave behind assets, both physical and digital, in the form of retail space and customer data and those are now being transferred to ecommerce companies.

Chain retailers often hold customer data that is quite valuable to technology and data driven companies, which are now purchasing bankrupt brands to access customer lists. Pier 1 and Modell's Sporting Goods are two examples of bankrupt brands that were purchased by the ecommerce company Retail Ecommerce Ventures. Tai Lopez, a social media marketer and president, communicated the value in an article at NBC News:

“Lists are not hard to get, but lists that are connected to a brand that I own, I can’t go buy that as easily,” he said. “You gain tremendous value by having conversations with customers who already have a relationship with that brand.”

A customer database typically sells for roughly $10 per contact. But that figure can skyrocket when that data is connected to a specific brand, said Lopez. In the case of Pier 1, Retail Ecommerce Ventures paid nearly 10 times as much as it paid for Modell’s Sporting Goods because its customer list was larger and the attachment customers have to the brand is stronger — which requires less leg work for the new owners, he said.

Retail brands like Men's Warehouse, Brooks Brothers, JC Penney others are likely to follow suit, if they haven't already. Relatedly, JC Penney's former storefronts are part of negotiations between Simons Property Group and Amazon. As retail stores close, Amazon is stepping in to [potentially take over physical stores in malls[(].

Amazon could be eyeing former anchor stores in malls as a way to take advantage of contemporary brick-and-mortar trends. In recent times, big flagship stores and small experience stores have proven to be most successful.

"Amazon has made its way into some of the smaller experience stores with its convenience stores and books and media stores so it makes sense to move into a larger format that builds on what they've done with Whole Foods," Gross said, "but it's also possible that they'll just use these space to better operate last mile fulfillment."

This appears to be a far different approach than Amazon's 4-start stores, which are an example of Amazon moving into busy, street-side shopping areas. Instead, Amazon would be taking large space that allows them to establish local distribution centers, conveniently located close to shoppers.

As the digital transformation progressions, assets will be transferred from failing firms to those that put them to better use. It's happening with physical stores and customer lists already, and will proliferate as more legacy retailers succumb to the changes.

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