Reporting on retail: What’s changing in 2019 and beyond

One might think reporting on retail is simple because “it's just about shopping,” says Phil Wahba, senior writer covering retail at Fortune magazine, but the story of retail is dynamic, complex and exciting. “[Retail] just connects to everything,” he says — from real estate, economics and social justice to marketing, products and supply chain. “Everything is connected to retail.”

On this episode, Wahba joins Retail Gets Real to talk about what goes into reporting on this complex industry and the stories to watch in 2019.

Wahba started at Reuters during the financial crisis and began reporting on retail before joining Fortune. Over the years, retail has always adapted to consumer needs; as Wahba sees it, that starts with company culture: “It's that understanding that you cannot force the consumer to shop and behave in a way that works for how you used to run your business,” he says.

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As for the media’s reports on the imminent death of retail over the last couple of years, Wahba says that is inaccurate. “I never have espoused the idea of a retail apocalypse,” he says. “I call it a culling.” Every industry evolves and adapts; he says journalists must avoid easy narratives. Wahba foresees a future of fewer but better retail locations, with better presentation of products and more adequate staffing. “People want convenience, and they want good prices,” he says. There are more cuts coming to department stores, but Wahba sees more unconventional partnerships and trends in the future like more dollar stores moving to city centers.

Listen to the full episode to learn about the stories that matter in retail right now and how the industry is likely to change in 2019.

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