Apocalypse, meltdown, death spiral: No matter the term, the economic wrecking ball slowly reducing the giants of American retail to rubble is bad news, and poised to get worse. Marquee names like The Limited, American Apparel, Macy’s, and Guess are closing stores, leading to shuttered malls and empty stretches of commercial space. But viewing these trends as a disaster instead of a bigger cultural and commercial shift misses the point. While the giants are falling, smaller players are figuring out how to reinvent the store experience for the 21st century, focusing on authenticity and community while, in many ways, thinking about sales second. “I’m not seeing the retail apocalypse in the world of creative, small entrepreneurs,” says Sarah Filley, a co-founder of Popuphood, a residency program for retail helping small businesses in the Bay Area. “There’s such an incredible spirit here. People are looking at suburban malls and calling it the end of an era. If you look at the startup scene in retail, there’s so much energy.” The retail apocalypse, in other words, may be better understood as a great sorting out for those who haven’t adjusted to the present retail environment. As Filley and many others believe, the original mall and big-box model — wherein large chain stores essentially function as logistics companies with nice-looking warehouses — has already died. And the next phase of brick-and-mortar retail, born of pop-up shops, Etsy, and online commerce, is just beginning. Read more at Racked.