We've been hearing warnings about the death of the high street for at least a decade now, since the ravages of the credit crunch killed off one-time stalwarts like Woolworths.
Now the administration of Arcadia Group and the prospect of the closure of Debenhams stores are combining into the last rites for shopping as we’ve known it.
If the worst happens, it would mean the loss of 1,700 jobs for retail workers - a toll which would hit women particularly badly as women tend to dominate in retail jobs which allow for more part-time hours.
The closure of Debenhams’ five stores around NI would leave gaping holes in our major shopping centres like CastleCourt and The Quays in Newry.
Arcadia has around 34 branches around NI, often in the same shopping centres as Debenhams, and on some high streets.
Debenhams’ stores are likely to close first as avenues for a purchase have all but fallen through after it went into administration earlier this year.
But the Arcadia spots will be staying open and trading for the time being. It’s hoped a buyer can be found for at least one brand - out of all of them, Topshop is likely to be the most attractive.
Reports have suggested that Next, Marks & Spencer and Frasers all willing to kick the tyres of the faded Arcadia empire.
However, the less-loved brands like Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis are likely to disappear.
The advent of online shopping and the downturn in consumer spending in the last recession caused the problems from 2008 onwards.
And those problems for bricks and mortar retail have been multiplying as their online rivals take off - without the headaches of a chain of stores and thousads of employees, they’ve had more time to devote to producing the type of clothing that people want to buy. The surge of online operations like ASOS and boohoo.com has cost retailers like Topshop billions of pounds in lost revenue.
But Covid-19 has brought months of closures for all but essential shops, pushing us ever more deeply into a relationship of convenience with online retailers like Amazon. We’ve also relied more on online deliveries from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda - all of which mean we’re less likely to visit the shopping centres where their branches are located, and less likely to nip into the other shops close by.
Shopping from your own home also means you avoid the safety risks of being part of a large crowd where transmission could occur.
Of course, the crowds in Belfast city centre last week before the closure of non-essential retail show that we still have an instinct to shop, especially with Christmas round the corner.
But there’s no question that with the pressure and competitive advantages of online retailers continuing to mount, we’ll have a lot less choice when it comes to next year’s Christmas shopping.