Future of retail holds many unknowns after 2 major chains file for bankruptcy

Neiman Marcus is the second major retailer to file for bankruptcy during the pandemic. So what does the future look like for big retailers post-coronavirus?  Experts say it does not bode well.

If the area around Orlando's International Drive is any indication, the once-bustling shopping scene is certainly not what it used to be.

"I think it’s so sad. I don’t like to hear that. We’re ready to get back out and go shopping," said shopper Natalia Moege.

Just this week, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus announced they're filing for bankruptcy. Experts worry more could follow suite.

"There’s a strong sense that they will not be the last. What we’re seeing is an acceleration of trends that had already started," said Professor of Marketing at Rollins College Dr. Mark Johnston.

Trends such as a decline in in-person sales as stores shift focus to online sales. Experts say J. Crew and Neiman Marcus were already struggling simply because "they did not have a significant online strategy," which is why they were hit so hard.

"They’re using bankruptcy to relieve some of the debt service, to reduce their expenses, and to restructure their expenses," said Dr. Johnston.

Neiman Marcus hopes the bankruptcy filing will help them remain open.  Dr. Johnston says ultimately what that may look like is fewer stores.  Some shoppers remain hopeful for the future.

"I think if we can get through these next few weeks that things will start turning around," said shopper Jo-Ann Lamar.Others, not so much."I think it’s going to go almost entirely online especially with this pandemic that it’s causing such a shock and people are realizing that it can be done online," said shopper Marisa Castro.

Dr. Johnston says the longer the pandemic and economic downturn last, the longer retailers are constrained, and the longer people are afraid, the more likelihood there is that additional chains will face financial difficulty.