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Joseph Kaminski

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June 29, 2017

Is Traditional Retail Dead?


I buy and sell used books in my spare time. I consider myself to be a bit of a freelancer — I’m my own boss, my own company, my own deadlines and sales. I have to figure out tourist hotspots (flea markets are a really good place to find yourself in Southwest Florida during tourist season), I have to buy in bulk and hope to sell quick. Some call me a bibliomaniac, but for the most part I just try to keep the cycle going. I buy books that I would never read (if you like Anatomy, Calculus, or Chemistry books give me a ring) in order to make sure I have everything that my customer base would want. Some books sit forever, like the ones on art. Other books sell quick, like the ones on World War II and whatever Twilight is. It’s how things work. But, with literally everything evolving to work its way into mechanized, internet-based technology: is traditional retail, from malls and department stores to independant sellers like myself, finally reaching its end?

While I don’t believe traditional retail is dying, I do believe it’s transforming. The buy-and-sell process is still very well seen even with big online dealers such as Amazon. Instant access is huge for customers. Accessability is huge. Why would anyone want to get in their car and drive somewhere when they can lounge around in their underwear and purchase the next Fifty Shades of Grey or whatever the general population has decided is “good fiction” from the luxury of their own home? Traditional retail is attempting to step into a world of convenience. The conventional store front is evolving into an online webpage.

Traditional Retail

Store aisles

Where else in society can you do your shopping at midnight in your stained pajamas (besides Walmart)? Why wait in a long line, awkwardly standing as the cashier that obviouslky has no idea what they’re doing (give them a break, they’re 17 and need this job to cure their addiction to cash), or be forced to calculate your total and your taxes off the top of your head? You can purchase from the comfort of your own home, saving your time and avoiding crowds while not be limited by attire or time.

Instead of waiting for coupons and big deals in the big box stores to come around, online stores give cheap deals and better prices year round. Why? Because they can afford to! You don’t need to keep hundreds of storefronts open and clean on an internet store! Many online stores, such as those seen on Etsy and other independant platforms, are run by people in their own homes. Then you see big Online Box Stores like Amazon with big warehouses to run and price slashes on their employees. Online stores have the access and the ability to have low, low prices all year long. Plus, the products come to your directly from the manufacturer or seller, for the most part. There’s no middleman — the store itself — usually taking its cut.

So, online shopping seems to benefit everyone. Nowadays, people tend to avoid crowds and unnecessary prices. With online shopping and this new age of technological buying-and-selling (including compulsive buys that everyone seems to have), competition is starting to force out the more traditional levels of retail. When’s the last time you went to a department store? Saving money, not having to leave the privacy of your own home…there doesn’t seem to really be a reason to do so anymore.

But, it’s not like traditional retailers are dying. They’re moving. Relocating, even. Companies get social media platforms and constantly advertise their websites, offering special deals for those who purchase online. Take Tiger Direct, for example, an electronics retail company. They closed down most if not all of their storefronts, opting for a digital storefront instead. Now they constantly offer high sales, buying and selling electronics left and right while continuing to grow in net worth. Smart companies are pushing for complete digital transactions. PayPal and Cred Cards are stapled to the costs of inventory, new forms of digital technologies force out entire platforms. Books are digitally accepted, with Kindles and Nooks exploding in the marketplace. But, like some people, I (personally) prefer having a real book over a digital one. But, of course, there’s bias there.

VHS tapes were supposed to be to be the death of movie theatres in the late 1970s. We’ve come to terms with radio dying outside of old cars, yet platforms like Pandora and Spotify make millions from paid advertisements and plans. We laughed when DVD rental stores closed their doors, but we watch digital streaming — the same DVD’s in digital formats — on a daily basis.

Retail isn’t dying, and it isn’t being replaced by the Internet. It’s evolving, transforming to make itself more applicable in a growing digital market and a quickly shrinking world. Convenience is key, and we’re in a world that literally obsesses over the easiest ways to do things. Self driving cars, instant purchases that calculate their own prices, and social media that allows you to ignore the world. The future is technological, and traditional retail is understanding that.

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