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Green Blindspots
Want to Save the Planet? Close Stores

Online shopping is crowing out traditional stores, and the planet is better for it. BBC reports that Staples is shutting its doors all across North America in a big downsizing of its brick-and-mortar retail presence: 

US office supplier Staples said it will close 225 stores in North America, more than 10% of its presence, as shoppers move online and its sales slump […]

“A year ago, we announced a plan to fundamentally reinvent our company,” said Ron Sargent, Staples’ chief executive.

“With nearly half of our sales generated online today, we’re meeting the changing needs of business customers and taking aggressive action to reduce costs and improve efficiency.”

Those losing jobs because of these closings deserve sympathy, but the world also just got a little greener. E-commerce will drastically reshape the whole mall centered American way of life. It will mean less driving on the part of the consumer, and it will allow companies to ship precise merchandise to those who order it instead of shuttling product back and forth between stores and warehouses. Readers know we are often critical of bad green policies on this site. But if the green movement would only realize that the transition from an industrial economy to an information economy is the way to cut pollution and fossil fuel use, it could have a bright future.

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  • Jim__L

    If warehouses and regional distribution centers (which are often in remote places) replace malls as the relevant points in the consumer landscape, that could have huge implications for the necessity of cities.

    The landscape is going to change.

    • Andrew Allison

      I don’t recall seeing any Staples outlets in malls. The short-term problem for malls is the Radio Shacks of the world (longer term, it’s whether they can hold on to their anchor stores). What, e.g., Staples, Best-Buy, Circuit City and Office Depot represent is the demise of the narrowly-focused big-box retailer. The silver lining is that all that empty, close-in, retail space will permit the warehouses and distribution centers to move closer to their customers in the cities. As alluded to in the post, in the addition to maintaining the city landscape status quo, this will significantly reduce commute times and resulting CO2 emissions for their customers.

      • Jim__L

        I’m not sure that the post alludes to anything other than the fact that deliveries will be made to the consumer’s door, independent of any need for retail space.

        Without the mall, marketplace, or workplace to hold the urban area together, the urban area can evaporate.

        As they say, “your mileage may vary”, but it sounds like a good thing to me.

  • Boritz

    “Those losing jobs because of these closings deserve sympathy…”

    Sympathy rather than subsidies for General Motors would have saved the taxpayers a lot of money.

    • Andrew Allison

      Do you mean Government Motors, which explains the seven year delay in acting on a safety issue which would have been seven days if the culprit were, e.g., Japanese-owned to my satisfaction.

  • Rick Johnson

    Just because an unintended outcome of a sensible decision is an outcomes that Greens claim to desire, there is no need to make anything off it.

    Do not feed the beast. The Greens are not pro- environment, they are just anti-human progress. A move from a so-called industrial economy to an information economy brings no joy to Greens,because it means a advance in human progress.

  • Pete

    Just 225 stores? Radio Shack said that they’re closing over 1,000 retail stores this year.

    GNC is contracting, too.

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