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The Future of Shopping
Cracks Showing in Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Over the past five years or so, shopping—that is, physically going to stores to buy things—has steadily declined in the United States. At first this was seen as a symptom of the 2008 recession, which it undoubtedly was, but as the American economy recovers, brick-and-mortar stores are still posting sluggish numbers thanks to online shopping. The WSJ reports:

Online sales increased by more than double the rate of brick-and-mortar sales this holiday season. Shoppers don’t seem to be using physical stores to browse as much, either. Instead, they seem to be figuring out what they want online then making targeted trips to pick it up from retailers that offer the best price. While shoppers visited an average five stores per mall trip in 2007, today they only visit three, ShopperTrak’s data shows.

It’s adapt-or-die time, as everyone from purveyors of clothes to peddlers of pizzas are realizing that many consumers prefer the anonymity and simplicity of purchasing goods online. Amazon, the unquestioned leader in this growing industry, is living up to its reputation as a relentless innovator by working to bring us our purchases with octo-copter delivery drones and by expanding its grocery delivery services. Malls across America are closing their doors, and these vast retail spaces are being forced to find new tenants, like schools and hospitals.

Online retailers may force 15 percent of America’s malls to close in the next five years. This is essentially a culling of an overbuilt industry, courtesy of the internet. It’s also an example of how an information economy can grow green. The emissions associated with powering up one’s laptop to purchase a new shirt pale in comparison to those that come with a physical (presumably car-facilitated) trip to the mall. Ordering groceries online also drastically reduces the environmental impacts of the ritual slog to the supermarket. These advances promise a more personalized, more convenient, more environmentally sound way to shop. The world is getting quietly greener.

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  • brad lena

    what the citizen without government coercion, compulsion, penalty and let’s not forget Cass’s “nudge” are slowly greening the world through independent choice and action.???!!

  • bigfire

    I spend MLK day going to the mall trying to buy some Under Armor socks. It’s not an obscure brand, but try as I may, I couldn’t find any. I did walk 3 thousand steps… Went home and bought the socks from That’s why these malls are failing. High rent, and the actual good that I specifically went to buy not being available.

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