Are you seeing the shift away from offline retail?

Over the past 3 months - Christmas, the January sales and now Easter - I’ve literally been experiencing it in front of my eyes. It’s surely demonstrable and accelerating. Certainly in London

Stage 1: internet
Stage 2: broadband/digital
Stage 3: fundamental and profound change in retail shopping

The whole concept of mall shopping will go. Fewer retailers will concentrate in fewer locations. Interesting times.

What are you seeing in your location?

Not happening that fast in the U.S. It has taken 20 years or so for internet shopping to reach 10% of total retail. Bigger problems for retail is the massive over-storing in the U.S. (something like 4 times or as much retail space (in square feet per person) as in Western Europe and certain store formats (like traditional department stores) are less efficient than other formats so are declining.

I’ve noticed a lot of small retailers & services (restaurants) going out of business around here lately. Very small but very long-lived ones. But they all seem to be getting priced out because of rent. Obviously they aren’t selling enough to cover the rent…but I don’t know if rent is going up or what.

I’m not doing anything more online personally but working for a major online retailer the past three years I am noticing more people buying that way and buying products most folks would usually buy brick-and-mortar such as toilet paper and dogfood.

Note that that 10% number (more like 8%) is highly controversial, since it includes restaurants (and a number of other markets for which ordering “online” isn’t possible or reasonable, like vehicles, groceries (in most places) and heavy machinery), and is in fact heavily weighted toward them because it’s measured in dollars.

Change those conditions, and the numbers range from a low of about 40% to a well over half, depending on who’s doing the counting and what they’re counting (what markets and whether they’re counting number of sales or dollars).

Not really making much of an impact here. Most of the online stores in Australia are badly made and not very well stocked, and shipping is still expensive. If we order from America it’s for obscure things unavailable locally, rather than for price, and usually for the nerds more than the regular folk. Plus our internet is still slow and problematic.

If the change is happening, it’s not very clear from my point of view. Shopping malls are still extremely popular here and I don’t see them going away any time soon.

I went to our local mall on Saturday morning (a few weeks ago). It was like a ghost town, with empty parking lots stretching away for acres. I went to the Sears to get a refrigerator water filter, and there was some empty floor space on one floor. I decided it was best to buy a bunch of those filters – just in case.

Not related to online shopping, but I’m noticing a lot of lunchtime restaurants are closing near my work. Ditto for donut shops and some strip mall businesses. Just a WAG, but I think people don’t go out as much for lunch anymore. I only go out for lunch a couple of times a month now, and I think this is becoming typical.

I’m seeing a degradation of traditional department stores and the smaller stores that emulate them like Pier 1 imports and Bed Bath and Beyond. Their merchandise is scattered haphazardly and the aisles are sometimes stuffed with hardly any room to move and other times the shelves have several rows completely bare.

They seem to be pushing cheaply made stuff for full retail (or occasionally 20% off which is still slightly pricier than big box). The cheapness of the quality combined with the difficulty in finding what I want or even if they have what I want is the very business model that will drive me to online shopping. I’m not going to pay Macy’s prices for a Dollar General experience.

Wow. If I needed a refrigerator water filter, a mall Sears is the last source I’d consider. Where in the store did you look? Were you sure they’d have them in stock?

It’s just so much simpler to look at Amazon on my phone, find the item, read reviews, and place my order. Free shipping (Prime) vs the cost of driving to a mall and the total time I spend on the purchase is two minutes vs two hours.

I’m not great at foreseeing the future, but it’s hard for me to imagine that brick-and-mortar retailing will disappear completely. You can’t try on clothes before you order them,[sup]*[/sup] and sending back the items that don’t fit always seem like more of a hassle than just going to a store and getting it right the first time. And if all the traditional stores go away, the online stores will need a lot more warehouse space than they currently have.

I wonder if we might end up with some kind of online/traditional hybrid. I could imagine a department store converting its space to be mostly warehouse, but with a public area where people could browse their site and try things on. And I’ve been to an Amazon bookstore. It was quite small compared to a behemoth like Barnes & Noble. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Amazon winds up using it for shipping. People who don’t want to risk having a package left on their doorstep could have it shipped to their local Amazon store for pickup.

  • I can’t really imagine ever buying shoes online. Finding a pair that fits usually takes several tries.

We both hate shopping-in-person and are getting dang close to buying everything online.

Our local mall was recently renovated but there are a lot of empty storefronts. The anchor stores (Sears and Macy’s) are looking a bit ragged.

In the mall area, Joe’s Crabshack and Chevy’s went under recently. Sadly, the indy pet shop just down the street closed in June. We bought food and supplies from them until their inventory got sparse (which is when we started ordering from Chewy.com).

A lot of little businesses around here open and close quickly. However, I think this is more so because they’re ill-advised ventures that would fail regardless of the online economy: hair salons and florists in competition with same services a few blocks away, a hat shop for church ladies, and watch and TV repair(!)

At this point I’m pretty much only buying groceries in-person. I’ve even bought clothes and shoes online; only had to return something once.

In my suburban Chicago area, I’ve felt like malls (Oak Brook, Yorktown) have been deserted, understaffed, and understocked.

Conversely, nearly every day it seems like a majority of residential front porches have packages that have been delivered. And I see far more delivery trucks - including day rentals from BORG.

Same here. And I’ve been buying clothes on line for years.

My mom, who is house bound, order groceries over the internet. And then I food shop for her about every other week. That makes my life a lot easier.

The wife and I buy almost everything except groceries and clothes online. We are moving to online shopping for clothes and we are already there for most shoes. We even buy some non-perishable groceries online now. We still like to pick out our own produce and meat though.

Are heavy machines really included in retail sales? I didn’t think that was the case but I’m happy to be corrected.

I looked at time series data for retail sales through December 2017 (available here: Business and Industry: Time Series / Trend Charts).

I used “Electronic Shopping and Mail-order Houses” as a proxy for internet sales. This includes both traditional catalog retailers and internet shopping but, let’s get real, the internet dominates these sales. This category was 9.5% of total 2017 retail sales.

As you note, some sales can’t move to the internet. Dealers’ new car sales are protected by state franchise laws. People can’t go to restaurants on the internet. No one is going to get their gas delivered over the internet. If we exclude just these three categories from retail sales to create a category of what I’ll call “mailable goods,” the Electronic Shopping and Mail-order Houses sold 14.7% of the mailable goods in 2017. That’s up from 5.42% in 2000. It looks like the internet has captured over 9% of mailable retail sales over that time. That’s a big hit to malls and bricks and mortar retailers over that period. Even this mailable goods category includes a lot of things that might be resistant to online sales, like firearms, groceries, clothes, furniture, and building supplies.

One could imagine that the growth of market share for internet retailers might slow down as they capture a bigger part of the market for goods that are easiest to sell over the internet. That doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Since the dot com bust in 2001, there haven’t been any years when Electronic Shopping and Mail-order Houses lost market share. Instead, the internet has grown its market share of mailable goods a mean of 6.6% each year after 2001. Last year, that number was 6.45%, right in line with its long run average. There are no signs that people are hitting the limits on how much they are willing to buy over the internet. Amazon and others like Blue Apron are making substantial moves into categories, like groceries, that might seem resistant to internet sales. Buying mattresses online is now a thing. The fastest growing eyeglass retailer is an internet company. Over time, a bigger and bigger chunk of retail sales are going to the internet, and bricks and retail mortar stores are preparing for this by paring back their retail footprints.

What I am seeing is that smaller retailers are carrying much less stock, they might have one variety or size of a product in stock but they will not have the full range of sizes and colours.

I love shopping …ive just always been 2 cm above poverty …but I don’t understand why theres this retail cult … I mean my great grandma was born 3 years before the sears catalog and since she lived on a farm thas how she shopped …only stores she could tolerate was grocery stores …

I’ve seen a lot of gas stations go out of business. Were magazines ever a large part of their sales, that seems to be the only item they sell that is severely effected by the internet.

I’d guess it’s pretty hard to tease out whether the woes of shopping malls and the stores associated with them are due to the rise of internet shopping or the rise of big-box stores.

By that, I mean that the big-box discount stores seemed to come to the forefront in the mid-1990s just about the same time that the internet came to prominence. That’s also right about the time that shopping malls/department stores started to wheeze.

Look at it this way… how often do you go to the mall to buy pants anymore? I know I haven’t done that in like 10-15 years- most have been either online or from a big-box store. I haven’t bought a coat in a store in probably 20 years; pretty much all of them since then have been from Amazon, or some online retailer like Cabela’s, Land’s End or LL Bean. But back in say… 1994, buying stuff at the local department store wasn’t a big deal or uncommon. Or for another example, outside of wedding registries, who’s bought cookware at a department store lately? Toys?

Now all that gets bought at department stores by me is stuff like perfume/cologne where I’m not quite willing to buy without smelling it first, or stuff like dress shirts/ties/suits.

I think that part of the problem is that we’re in a state of disequilibrium- this stuff takes time to shake out and settle down.

We probably get a couple packages a week mail order. I even buy shoes online–always the same model and size 14 that shoe stores can’t be bothered to carry. And my son-in-law works for a company, now bought out by Amazon, that fits clothes on the basis of various measurements. We have still not tried online food, but it’s coming. The mall where we mall-walk all winter (and occasionally shop at) has empty store fronts. Yet they are planning a new supermall a couple miles away.