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Colvin Fall Lecture Addresses the Amazon Effect and the Future of American Retail

The mall is dead, but Amazon didn’t kill it. SiteWorks President Nick Egelanian, a leading expert on retail and the shopping center industry, addressed the demise of the American mall, the age of Amazon and the fate of retail in a special fall lecture on Wednesday to a packed auditorium at the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Egelanian’s lecture on the future of retail addressed the myths and misconceptions of traditional retail, how retail is changing and what it will look like in the future. The biggest myth? That Amazon is dismantling storefront retail as we know it; in fact, Amazon represents only about 1% of the retail market.

“Brick-and-mortar retail is very dynamic and complex; it’s alive and well and not going anywhere,” says Egelanian. “While [retail] is the single largest component of the country’s GDP, it is incredibly misunderstood, to the detriment of owners, retailers and consumers.”

He compared the skyrocketing popularity of Amazon to the advent of the catalog in the 1980s; experts then predicted catalogs would destroy physical retail stores and small businesses, a fate that never came to fruition. Egelanian counters that e-commerce sales growth is slowing, with shipping costs the biggest regulator. He also notes that the mall concept fell victim not to Amazon, but to the popularity of a more convenient commodity, big-box retail formats, where stores like Target, Costco and Best Buy are within arm’s reach. Egelanian predicted that the future of retail will be influenced primarily by 10 factors, including income disparity, the rise of cheap and “fast” fashion, shifting demographics and a reduction in retail square footage.

“It was a very interesting and different perspective on retail behavior,” said MRED graduate student Rahul Chawla. “He covered factors I hadn’t considered before.”

“We are so fortunate to have such an esteemed expert to discuss the future of retail and bring his unique perspective to our students and the professional community,” said Real Estate Development Program and Colvin Institute Director Maria Day-Marshall.

Egelanian, who is an adjunct professor for the Real Estate Development Program is teaching a course on retail management this fall. This is his fifth year teaching the course as part of the graduate curriculum. The lecture is part of a series of events happening this semester that address contemporary trends and challenges in real estate development; in December, MRED students will present year-long feasibility studies in the Colvin Institute Capstone Competition. The Colvin Institute will also host its annual Colvin Case Study Challenge on December 7, 2019, a national case study competition where teams present recent projects to a professional jury.

The Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development at the University of Maryland supports research, industry outreach and student enhancements for the Master of Real Estate Development degree.

From right: Lecturer Nick Egelanian, Dean Donald W. Linebaugh, and Lecturer Thomas Dwyer

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