Like the saying goes, houses are money pits. New houses are deeper pits. Having recently moved into a new house, I’ve been spending a lot of money. Doing my part to drive the economy. Now, I understand why retailers savor new house formation, because it really does drive a lot of purchases. Here’s a sampling of what I have bought in the last three weeks: a drill, hangers, lamps, a vacuum, light bulbs, lots of light bulbs, an ironing board and iron, a thingy to hang up the iron and ironing board, towels, beach chairs, sheets, a couch, stools, outdoor cushions, towel racks, rug pads, a step stool, window blinds…okay, are you tired of this list? So am I, to be sure.
What’s interesting and noteworthy is that I bought all of this stuff online. It’s not that I’m just now waking up to the fact that you buy things on the Internet, but it’s that I spent so much money and none of it was spent on traditional retailers. Retailers rely on people-like me-but I went Prime. Amazon Prime. With free shipping, even the most mundane of goods were easier and cheaper to buy through Amazon. From tennis balls to totem poles, with just one click, they delivered them to me. The thing is, I am just one of five million other “primers.” And the group is growing at more than +50% a year.
That spells a heap of trouble for big box retailers who are paying rent on hundreds, if not thousands, of expensive locations and doling staff salaries to run those stores. Just ask Best Buy, JCPenney, Sears, Rite Aid, Staples. If I don’t have to, I don’t want to drive, park and search the aisles of warehouses (which have the ambiance of a hospital, by the way) to get what I can get cheaper, easier – and delivered! – from Amazon.
Does this mean our Main Streets and malls will become ghost towns? No, but most likely there will be a very painful transition for many unless they start selling goods, and especially experiences, which we can’t get anywhere else. To get me offline, my downtown will have to have places like a wine store that lets me taste before I buy. Or a hardware store with old wood floors that creak and crotchety men who will tell me what kind of latch to get and how to apply varnish correctly. It may be all in my head, but that hardware store I still drive to takes me back to some vague Jimmy Stewart-esque movie where the world was nicer, simpler and cozier. That’s something that I can’t get on Amazon – even with my Prime membership.