The Last Word: Retail Expert Steve Dennis On the AI-Led Demise of ‘Mediocre Middle’

Steve Dennis

“Expect to see the collapse of the mediocre middle. Just this time it will be in jobs.”

Steve Dennis
President and Founder, SageBerry Consulting
and Co-Host of the “Remarkable Retail” Podcast
.…on potential shifts made possible by generative AI.

The Dallas-based retail guru—who notes that “You can’t spell retail without AI”—spends a lot of time at retail conferences.

“Last year, the hot topic was the Metaverse,” Dennis said in a recent email. “While hyperbole IS the greatest thing ever, it turns out I got at least one of my 2022 predictions right. This year it’s all Metaverse, Schmetaverse and the belle of the ball is artificial intelligence.”

“The potential shifts made possible by generative AI (and related technologies) do seem fundamentally more game-changing, while illustrating that disruption continues to happen more exponentially than linearly,” he added.

Beyond AI, Dennis says some of “biggest nonsense” is “the myth of the retail apocalypse.” 

“In the U.S., sales through physical retail have grown for 15 years straight and thousands of stores continue to open,” he writes. “Remarkable retailers like Walmart, Target, and many others, have wisely made huge investments in their brick-and-mortar locations to make them the hub of their brands’ eco-system and give them a competitive edge over Amazon.”

But as Business Insider noted, Dennis believes not all retailers are immune from that alleged apocalypse—and he says to expect more foreclosures and bankruptcies like what happened to Bed Bath & Beyond.

“The apocalyptic part is really about the collapse of the unremarkable middle,” Dennis said on his podcast. “It’s the poorly positioned real estate, or the poorly positioned retailers.”

In today’s economy, middle-market retailers aimed squarely at a shrinking middle class have cause for concern, Dennis believes:

“If you’re one of these retailers that’s stuck in the middle, à la Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, et cetera, your life is not getting any easier.”

You can listen to “Remarkable Retail” on Apple podcasts and a number of other podcast sources.

For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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