Are retailers following the airline model?

The question posed above triggered a lot of comment at RetailWire. Most panelists agreed with me that it’s “the other way around”:

To some extent the airlines are following the lead of retailers and many other industries that have already lived through massive consolidation. The number of “legacy” airlines has shrunk from six to three in a matter of a few years, and their product hardly differs from the well-run “low cost” operators like Southwest and JetBlue. The parallel is the reduced number of regional department store nameplates and the rise of Macy’s.

The parallel ends there, however, because of the wide array of goods and services still available across the retail spectrum. There is room for both Walmart and Nordstrom (and a lot of options in between, in terms of merchandising, pricing and service) but very little room for airlines to differentiate a commodity product.

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