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Department stores survived the pandemic by being adaptable and innovative

June 21, 2023
By Ruifeng Wang, Martin Dresner and Xiaodan Pan

This is an excerpt of an article written for The Conversation by Ruifeng Wang, PhD student in Supply Chain Management, University of Maryland; Martin Dresner, professor, Logistics, Business and Public Policy, University of Maryland; and Xiaodan Pan, associate professor, Supply Chain and Business Technology Management, John Molson School of Business.

Masked woman walking through mall

The retail industry has experienced major upheavals over the past few years due to the rise of online retailing and the decline of shopping malls. One retail sector that has been hit especially hard is department stores.

Iconic Canadian brands, such as Eaton’s, Simpsons and Woodward’s, have disappeared. American retail brands, including Nordstrom and Target, have entered the Canadian market and then withdrawn.

Only a few department store retailers, like The Bay, still have a tenuous grip on the Canadian retail market. Similar upheavals have occurred in the United States, with many regional department store brands disappearing over the past 30 years.

The challenges faced by retailers were made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers and department stores struggled to stay afloat during lockdowns. To survive the tough retail environment, they needed to be both resilient and innovative.

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