The Age of Online Shopping Could Mark the Beginning of "Retail Apocalypse"

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COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS
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Choosing where you spend your money is kind of like casting a ballot every time you make a purchase. Yes, your dollars do make a difference; a difference that could mean life or death for many retail stores as we know them.

Opting out of a trip to the mall to shop online is nothing new, neither is the shifting of the retail scene, but the growing trend that favors FedEx over Forever 21, could mark the end of physical shopping experience: the 'retail apocalypse.'

"The difference this time is how much power consumers now have in affecting change through their choices and the feedback they're able to provide retailers online," said Sabrina Helm, a UA associate professor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.



Helm and her colleagues decided to survey over 400 consumers about their shopping habits and perceptions of today's retail environment. They also "analyzed over 1,600 comments made on online news articles written about store closures or the evolving retail environment," according to the press release.

The results were published in the Journal of Retailing and Customer Services Navigating the 'retail apocalypse': A framework of consumer evaluations of the new retail landscape.



According to the press release, respondents who preferred online shopping report not liking poor customer service, long lines, and items being out of stock. Some even admit that they avoid the social interaction.

On the other hand, some like shopping in stores for the social experience that they like to share with family and friends. Some even like interacting with strangers, unlike their online shopping opposites. "Others even said that shopping was important to their physical health, as it was their primary source of exercise," the press release reported. 
"There's a sense that brick-and-mortar stores are part of the social fabric of our society. If they disappear, many are concerned about the economy and what this will do for jobs and revenue for communities. Many people also said stores were vital to their quality of life. There are also fears that come from the closure of store spaces: What happens with all that empty space? Is crime going to increase because now we have all these empty areas? Crime rate was also a concern with regard to increased online shopping: Are there going to be more home invasions because there are all these packages on door fronts?" Helm wrote. 
The study concluded that closing all retail would be bad for society; so really, when it comes to the fate of our society as consumers, have more power than ever.

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