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Our expert voices conversation about the death of retail.

Best Buy was written off for dead a few years ago. The company rebounded through sharper pricing, more services, and an increased assortment of products that aren't readily sourced online, such as mobile phones and brown goods.

For customers, the experience of retail shopping retains an edge over the online experience. Shopping remains fundamentally a social experience that people enjoy doing together. Two, customers continue to rely on malls to access services such as nail salons, for purchases that require customization, such as the tailoring of garments, and for entertainment.

For some product categories, retail settings are simply superior. For example, companies who struggle to express important features of their product online — such as sportswear, for which the texture and precise color of fabric is critical — will continue to rely on stores.

Moreover, new retail formats are emerging that are less susceptible to online competition. Brands like Uniqlo, H&M and Zara sell lower-priced products that are often purchased on impulse and do not offer sufficient margin to cover the cost of returns and free shipping that online shoppers demand.

The bottom line: Retail employment will not disappear. It will decline, but stabilize as retailers innovate.

Other voices in the conversation:

Joseph Fuller is Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School.

Go deeper

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."

3 hours ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

A health care worker preparing a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine dose in New York City on Oct. 21. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the Food and Drug Administration Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Changing the inflation conversation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inflation looks like it’ll run hot for longer than plenty of smart people thought it would. The conversation over just how much more Americans will have to pay for their stuff has taken on a new intensity, as supply problems show few signs of fading.

Why it matters: The rate of price growth has remained consistently strong in recent months — a time that some thought would bring cooling prices after an initial reopening spike. What goes on with prices will influence the decisions made by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Federal Reserve.

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