business

The future of retail

I am not trying to pick favorites in online (or bricks and mortar) retail, but I have been thinking lately about how much time using Amazon has saved me.

I often think of something I need. In the old days I would run out to Target or Wal-Mart or maybe a department store or specialty store, depending on what I needed. Now I just pull up the amazon website or app on my tablet, and a few easy searches or clicks and I have what I need. The worst used to be when I would think of these things not all at once, that meant multiple trips. But Amazon doesn’t care, I don’t have to “save up” my needs for one “trip” to the store (or strip mall if I needed to visit multiple stores).

Of course I, like you, realize online shopping can’t replace everything. But I have been impressed with the level of penetration into many categories that a few years ago I would have thought wouldn’t work online. Part of that is the flexibility good online retailers give in terms of shipping options and, most importantly, returns.

Now I see news of store closings, which we have had a few in rapid succession, and wonder what we will do with all these large, square buildings we don’t seem to need for shopping anymore. One guess – they will become home to virtual reality experiences. The kind where you can combine the physical and the virtual, which requires a bit more space than your living room. Another possibility – maybe our school districts can leverage these facilities so they don’t have to build new schools, assuming we could work out how recess would work.

One thing seems certain is this trend won’t reverse itself. And it feels imminent that someone is going to figure out groceries within the foreseeable future which could have an even bigger impact on that industry than it did in clothing and general merchandise.

 

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