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Opinion
Stephen Mihm

Depression-Era Secrets of Retail Survival

How can smaller players get wiped out while the larger chains thrive? It’s happened before.

The Great Depression overwhelmed smaller retailers but not larger ones.

The Great Depression overwhelmed smaller retailers but not larger ones.

Photographer: Bettmann/Getty Images

Since January, upward of more than 12,000 retailers in the U.S. have shuttered their doors – a record rate of decline. Yet shares in Macy’s and its counterparts are surging in anticipation of the world after Covid-19, thanks to recent vaccine breakthroughs. How can smaller players get wiped out while the larger chains thrive?

The bloodletting that’s taking place right now is eerily reminiscent of what happened during the Great Depression.