March 31, 2017

What will retailing look like 10 years from now? Will Main Street and suburban shopping still exist?

Recent announcements by household names such as Sears, Macy’s and J. C. Penney of mass store closures, and the unrelenting growth of e-commerce, do not augur well for the traditional shopping experience.

But the death of bricks-and-mortar retailing has been grossly exaggerated. A decade from now people will still be visiting their favorite outlets – it’s just that the environment in which they shop will look very different than it is today.

Ironically, some of the branded outlets they’ll patronize are ones that are leading the online revolution today.

Amazon recently opened its first Go store. The store sells food products and has no checkout line. Shoppers scan their smart phones on entry, and the outlet automatically tracks what products they pick up from shelves and charges them. This new format offers a glimpse of the future of bricks-and-mortar retailing. Reports suggest that the online retailer might open 2,000 Amazon Fresh grocery stores across the U.S. in the next ten years (in addition to its book stores).

Amazon is not alone in its unexpected migration to real-world shopping. For example, this January online purveyor of eyeglasses Warby Parker told the Wall Street Journal that it plans to open at least 25 retail stores this year. In 2016, Alibaba invested in Sanjang Shopping Club Ltd., a discount supermarket in China. Forbes reports that Alibaba’s long term strategy is to achieve a transformed retail industry, driven by the integration of offline and online shopping.

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