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Digital and Offline Retailers Make Unexpected Bedmates

Whether you all it "evolving" or "shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic," brick-and-mortar and digital retailers are forming unexpected alliances.

Whether you call it "evolving" or "shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic," brick-and-mortar and digital retailers are forming new, unexpected alliances with each other in order to keep up with the changing shopping environment.

At least 25 percent of malls are expected to close by 2022. As competition from Amazon and other digital retailers mount, and consumers alter their buying habits, physical stores are closing en masse, with more than 5,000 stores this year already shutting their doors.

Walmart is nearing a deal with Lord & Taylor to add a section of the upscale department store's products on its website, the Wall Street Journal reports, potentially becoming the anchor tenant in "an online mall that shoppers could access from Wal-Mart’s website."

Nothing may better embody the challenge and possible missteps retailers are making than a desire to combine a mass-market price chopper with America's oldest luxury department store in a virtual "mall" at the same time that brick and mortar malls are shuttering across the country.

Walmart is also allowing customers to order its products on the Google Home Smart Speaker.

And, to cover all bases, the chain now allows for free in-store pickup of items bought on its online site.

Across the board, everyone is finding a dancing partner to shield their backside.

Amazon is now accepting returns at Kohl's stores. Sears and Nike, which had shunned Amazon, are now letting their products be sold on its site.

Previously the retailers didn't want to cannibalize their own digital and brick-and-mortar sales on the everyman site. But with retail suffering, it's gotten impossible to ignore the power of marketing to Amazon's over 300 million customers.

In another sign of the times, Amazon is taking over most of the Macy's tower in Seattle as office space. And Whole Foods is selling Alexas in its stores.

"I don't think brick and mortar is dying but it is definitely evolving into an entirely different animal than you saw in the past," Maya Mikhailov, CMO of GPShopper, a mobile retail app developer, told NBC News.

"Retail is going digital, some of the new retailers that you see that are grabbing consumer interest are all purely digital players," she added. "Retail isn't dying but it is evolving and through that evolution you will see a lot of store closures, but you will see stronger brands emerge."