business news in context, analysis with attitude

The other day Vox had a story entitled "'Going shopping' is dead," arguing that stores have essentially "sucked the fun" out of a traditional American pastime.

An excerpt:

"Understaffing, inventory problems, and heavy-handed theft prevention measures are hardly new to the retail industry, but the problems have become more commonplace in the last few years, when the dial of frustration and discomfort turned higher. Yet the through line of why shopping from beyond the comfort of your home feels so miserable now has less to do with the pandemic’s disruption and everything to do with retailers unable — or unwilling — to invest in stores, including the labor that makes a shopping trip go smoothly or not."

The story notes that retail foot traffic is down, "and a kind of chicken-or-egg effect is taking place.

"Fewer shoppers mean retailers have been stocking fewer items in-store, instead having inventory delivered to brick-and-mortar locations when a customer places an order for pick-up. That only reinforces the experience of the modern store as an under-stocked desert, making people even less likely to want to shop in person, and stores less inclined to spend their tightened budgets on staffing stores adequately or improving them. None of this bodes well for the future of retail: The investment bank UBS estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 retail stores will close in the next five years."

You can read the entire story here.

KC's View:

To be honest, I don't really buy the sweeping conclusions of this story.  I think there are plenty of retailers out there that are acting counter-intuitively, that are creating compelling, engaging, relevant and resonant shopping experiences.  Not all of them, to be sure.  Not even most of them.  The ones that are not will find themselves obsolete at some point.

But obsolescence is not a forgone conclusion, nor an inevitability.  It is, to a great degree, a choice.