What an exciting world we live in with the Internet—an unlimited source of information at our fingertips on our smartphones. Do you even remember what it was like when you weren’t able to find out the answer to literally anything you wanted to know, whenever you wanted to know it?! It’s great right?
Well, yes and no. There is so much that is positive about the advancements in Internet technology over the last 20 years, but as with most positive things, there will always be some negative. The impact of the Internet on retailers, the shopping experience, and the social community is one such example.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
It’s no secret that people are spending more and more time online. It’s also no secret that people are spending money—billions and billions of dollars—online every year. In fact, as of 2018, e-commerce retail trade sales in Canada amounted to almost 1.6 billion Canadian dollars, and revenue generated within the retail e-commerce market is expected to surpass 55 billion Canadian dollars by 2023, up from 40 billion in 2018. Online shopping is big business.
The problem is, much of this money used to go to brick-and-mortar businesses, including small, locally-owned stores. These local retailers have always had to try and compete with big-box stores like Walmart, which could offer similar products at much lower prices. Now local businesses have a new foe that they are facing—online giants like Amazon and Wayfair that, once again, can offer more competitive prices. Plus, the customer doesn’t even have to leave the comfort of their own home to make purchases.
The impact of the “Amazon effect”—redefining and revolutionizing the concept of shopping—is very real, with more and more retail stores closing every year as it simply becomes unsustainable for them to complete. This is an unfortunate by-product of progress.
However, it’s more than just the loss of physical stores that impacts people. There’s a loss to the community every time a local store goes out of business. That store made contributions to local taxes. That store had local owners, local employees, and local customers —many of whom probably still enjoy shopping there, just not enough to keep it profitable. There was a social aspect to shopping in an actual store. People spoke to each other.
Yes, one store closing might not seem that big of a deal, but imagine walking around your downtown core and seeing endless boarded up store windows. Restaurants, entertainment, and retail stores are what local communities have been built around for hundreds of years. What happens to that community when the businesses start to disappear?
What can you do to support retailers in your community?
For some, the shrinking retail core of most cities is seen as a by-product of the age we live in. While they may think it’s unfortunate, they are not prepared to change their shopping habits to keep local businesses alive.
On the other hand, there are community members who are deeply passionate about keeping small, local retailers in business, and are prepared to make personal changes to support them. The “shop local” movement has really taken off in recent years, and local retailers are getting the support from the community, and cities themselves, in promoting the benefits to everyone of buying local.