How often do you shop online? We will wager that it is a lot more often than you thought you would, even just a few years ago. News sites are full of stories about how seemingly indestructible retail giants like Sears and Toys “R” Us have faltered badly recently. Changing shopping habits is not a new thing, but online shopping has created a major sea change when it comes to how people are buying not just rare or offbeat items, but even the basics of daily living.
For example, grocery delivery was something that was not so unusual in, say, small-town America. But now even people in major cities are buying their food online and having it delivered. Substantial benefits have occurred, but mostly for a handful of major retailers and a large swath of consumers. Competition is always beneficial when it comes to keeping prices down, and the fact that online retailers often do not have brick-and-mortar storefronts and much smaller employee rolls means that they can offer their goods for a lower price. Combine that with the remarkable convenience of shopping online and it becomes a proposition that is just too good to pass up for many consumers.
This has led to a dramatic drop in the number of people not only going to stores, but to shopping malls in general. Sears has filed for bankruptcy protection and many are predicting that the retail behemoth will never recover. Toys “R” Us managed to get an infusion of cash that will keep the lights on, but that is of little help to the various organizations owed money.
All things change, but it is tough to predict exactly how much online shopping will continue to affect the retail environment in the next five years. Over the long haul, we might actually be at the beginning of an unstoppable march into a time when brick-and-mortar stores become something that you only read about in history books.