The internet has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. Whereas it is an information miracle bringing Americans and the world closer together than ever, it is also a disaster for one industry after another.
Its effect on the retail industry has become devastating in term of jobs that employ one out of every ten workers in this country. As the freeways and shopping malls become more crowded by the year, American shoppers are dropping the trip to the mall for shopping that is more convenient online.
The outcome of this change in shopping preferences is causing American retailers to close thousands of stores and go bankrupt at a rate not seen since the recession. Massive job loss has created a “slow-rolling crisis” that is seriously damaging the economy.
This is not something the government can fix or make new laws about. Whether it is Donald Trump in charge or any other president, it is a fact of rising technological change.
The stark fact is people will lose their jobs and many are not skilled to do anything else in this economy. Shoppers will spend less money in brick and mortar stores because they do not have a job or utilize the internet instead.
This is creating a slow-rolling crisis. The people that work in retail stores will lose their jobs, and then spend less money in retail stores because they are no longer employed. That creates a cascade of economic challenges.
The economic reality is escalating and it may soon speed up. Since October, about 89,000 workers in general merchandise stores have lost their jobs. This is more than the number of people employed in the entire U.S. coal industry, according to The New York Times. There is no other skill most retail workers have.
Typically these workers are low-skilled and receive sub-par wages. Many times they are workers that need flexible hours to maintain family obligations or second jobs. They lose their job and can’t find another that fits their lifestyle.
Retail business is going to E-commerce players. There is none bigger than Amazon. It is now far easier to navigate the internet for what you want than negotiate freeways, parking lots and crowded malls.
The real estate aspect is dying along with the stores themselves. It is a shift that has not come unexpectedly. It is now at crisis stage. According to Business Times, “This shift has been building gradually for years. But economists, retail workers and real estate investors say it appears that it has sped up in recent months.”
E-commerce is exploding. Between 2010 and 2014, E-commerce grew an average of $30 billion annually. Since 2014, it is at a $40 billion dollar level. The rapid change is overwhelming the retail industry with no letup in sight. Retooling the working population must become the number one priority of the economy.
The decline can be seen in familiar chains such as Macy’s, Sears, K-Mart and Penny’s. All are experiencing massive layoffs and store closures nationwide. This sea of change is due to online shopping. This seismic shift may soon extinguish a cultural landmark of the recent past; the American shopping mall.
Already the change is evident among kids and their retailing habits. The overall security concerns of the bricks and mortar retailers are going to become a draining cost on them. The internet presents less cost and less overhead.
It brings with it a new culture. Gone will be the places for the youth of this country to congregate. One less location to socialize as the American people more and more turn inward to their home electronics and online living environment. It can already be seen on every street and in many automobiles. People are using their I-phones to communicate and less human face to face.
Shoppers leaving brick-and-mortar stores now face a convenience option and they are exercising it. This could also change the shopper’s idea of “bargain hunting.” If there is a weak demand environment, consumers will become more fickle. Without the loud pronouncement of sales in newspapers and radio/TV communication, theoretically prices will rise.
That will mean that online retailers are best positioned to set the prices due to far less distribution of their goods and the burden of huge sales inventory. There will be no store to operate thus lowering their initial costs. But will that lead to better pricing or bigger profits for them?