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Is it retail or is it us? The future looks grim.

I am a consumer like most of you reading this. But there has been an enormous change in the world of shopping and retail in just 10 years. Think about this because it has affected nearly all aspects of buying and multimedia.

Years ago, if you wanted to buy something, say a computer, you would possibly go to a few stores, ask a few questions, see a few different models and gain some knowledge from some sales people that MAY know something about what you are buying. Stores paid employees to know what they were selling and give customer service. Then you would find the best local price. Rarely would you find a good price in a catalog, and if you did, it was some superstore.

Fast forward to today and you now find retail stores being the victim of “touch and feel” then buy online. There are apps that help speed up the process. You go into a retail store and open your app, scan a barcode then buy on Amazon or some other online only store. Sure getting a deal is great but there is a huge part of the picture missing. When this process of shopping began and started affecting businesses, the first victims were the employees of the store, the sales people were affected by witnessing policy changes in stores where commission was no longer an option. The intelligent sales people, left the companies and jobs were left to the poor teens and young adults who are are not as knowledgable, or really have no incentive to sell the quality products. In fact more often the bad products offer “spiffs” to sell the products that may not sell as well on their own. Now I am not saying all sales people are not knowledgable, but there was definitely a shift.

Most major retail stores have gone out of business. Remember CompUSA, Circuit City, K-Mart, to name a few. Best Buy isn’t doing too well either. With margins in products getting thinner, since they have to compete with the cheap mass purchasing online stores, who have no retail stores and amount of employees to pay, stores are closing left and right. Big retails store buildings are now empty, which then affects smaller stores that are affected by missing anchor stores. In turn, it makes nice neighborhoods look poor, reducing local property values. It is a no win situation.

Is this the price of modernization? Are we our own worst enemy? We want the deal and want to see and touch the product yet sometimes we don’t buy the product at the location where we got the most help. If you feel it isn’t happening, then the good news is that you may not be one of those type of shoppers and there is hope after all. But for how long. When all retail is gone, then what will you do?

I know this sounds like a vent, and sure it is. There used to be big record stores, and places to rent movies. Remember those days? That was 3-4 years ago. Soon we will say, remember cable or satellite? Just like we say, remember when you had a land line? Things are changing, but what is going to replace it all. We will know probably next year.

This is mimicked in entertainment. Budgets for TV shows have been cut so bad that we have multiple Voice style shows, and we are in every housewives business, we watch families have dozens of babies on TV, and sex video queens become huge celebrities, because well its cheaper to make their TV shows.

How can we benefit from all this change? Retail has to get smarter, both in service and technology, they must find ways to keep the customer. Equipment to make great entertaining TV shows is cheaper, and soon watching amazing indie talents producing movies and tv shows may be a hidden win once watching it on a HDTV becomes mainstream, using the internet. Smaller stores a need to get even smarter, to compete, perhaps taking bigger risks.

You see Networks love having control. The internet can leverage the game of content. As it has been doing with music, it may do with TV and film. Retail has to learn to merge the store with the internet. Something like what Walmart has tried to do and stores like Best Buy, where the touch and feel but better price control. It is hard when online retail is willing to make $2 profit for the volume of customers they get.

Well enough of the rant, think about it. Things need to change, but most of us don’t even know whats going on.


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