Retail Apocalypse Amplifies: Media Ignores The Debt Catalyst

Thursday, April 11, 2019
By Paul Martin

Mac Slavo
April 11th, 2019

As the retail apocalypse continues to accelerate as we inch toward the middle of 2019, many in the mainstream media seem content to ignore the major problem: debt. The companies closing stores did have the disadvantage of keeping up with Amazon, but the real problem is that the debt load got to be too much, and they filed bankruptcy.

E-Commerce (or online sales) represented only 14.3% of all consumer sales in 2018. That’s up, but only minimally from 12.9% in 2017 and 11.6% in 2016. These statistics are hardly worth mentioning, however, all of these stores closing had one bigger elephant that no one seems able to talk or write about: massive debt. They simply bit off more than they could chew. The Washington Post, for example, was content to blame the entire “accelerating” retail apocalypse on online sales. Articles that do mention the overloading of debt are barely scratching the surface.

The E-commerce sales are not enough to put stores out of business, but couple that slight loss in sales (even though it wasn’t much as retail consumer spending jumped as well) with the massive debt load these corporations have taken on and we have a retail apocalypse. This very issue shows just how dangerous debt can be.

Shopko’s undoing was their debt load. According to, Shopko announced in mid-January it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring debt. While trying to stay afloat, the struggling retailer said over the past few months that it would be closing about 250 stores. Plans changed mid-March when Shopko said it would liquidate all of its assets and close all of its stores by June 2019.

Brian Kelly, president of retail consultancy firm Brian Brands, explained to at the end of 2018, when Shopko had just announced it was closing a few dozen stores. “[Shopko is] another retailer broken by debt and … caught in the death spiral.”

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