NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been nothing short of a volatile and downright entertaining start to 2014 in physical retail. But it's not like the brick and mortuary stores (a term coined by the great Downtown Josh Brown on Twitter (TWTR)) haven't brought the pain on themselves.
In this article, I summarize and build on my take on retail's conundrum beyond the recent controversy surrounding Sears (SHLD - Get Report). This conversation matters within, but also outside of investing -- retail's survival really ought to be an issue of critical national concern.
Because it's not just Sears on the verge of "death," it's names such as Best Buy (BBY - Get Report), J. C. Penney (JCP - Get Report) and, to a lesser extent, Target (TGT - Get Report) and Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report).
First, two key points ...One ... how do we define terms such as "survival" and "death" within the context of these conversations? While I certainly believe more than a few physical retailers, even some big names, will go the way of Circuit City, references to survival and death have as much to do with relevancy as they do the notion of struggling to exist or not existing at all. To illustrate this, consider a Twitter exchange I had with TheStreet's Brian Sozzi on Friday:
??----> "The Assorted Reasons Why @Sears will Die and @JCPenney will Live" http://t.co/tQLgSUA5LO $SHLD $JCP Brian Sozzi (@BrianSozzi) January 17, 2014
If you call that living $JCP RT @BrianSozzi: Funny you should ask that... @philprombo ---> http://t.co/bRSzxssw6o Rocco Pendola (@Rocco_TheStreet) January 17, 2014
And that's the thing. Can we really characterize JCP outliving Sears and surviving as this place where you participate in uninspired consumption as success?