I was watching some TV last night, and a commercial came on for a company that sells cars online. I didn't think much about it at the time; I was only half paying attention anyway because I was also shopping online with my iPad.
Later in the evening, the subject of that commercial popped back into my head. What a world we live in! I can buy a car from my easy-chair, the whole process from shopping to selection to financing. Then, they will deliver it for free right to my door in 48 hours!
The more I thought about it; I started to reflect on other changes that have happened to retail since the Big-Box players, and then e-commerce arrived on the scene.
Do you remember back when you would watch the newspaper for sales? Used the Yellow Pages to find a service you needed? Do you even get the local newspaper now? I haven't used the phone book in years.
I used to drive to the local feed store for dog food. Shopped for clothing at the local men's store then went a few doors down for a new pair of shoes. I would go to the local plumbing supply to get parts to fix a dripping faucet (and the advice on how to do it.) Now, all of those businesses are gone, "victims of progress?"
Sometimes I kind of miss those days. YouTube videos are not a suitable replacement for an experienced human showing you face-to-face how to do something. Free return shipping doesn't replace a proper fitting.
There's an App for That!
Speaking of a proper fitting, have you seen the apps that use your phone's camera to measure you for a tailored shirt? Tap, tap, here's my credit card number and like magic, in a couple of days, a perfectly tailored shirt arrives at your door. Need a ride? Hungry? Lonely? Just Tap.
As my mind continued to explore this "progress" topic, I started to wonder if any small business was safe from inevitable extinction.
I thought about all of the businesses I frequented that are now shuttered. The local lumber yards (3 of them) all gone. Now we have Lowes & Home Depot - Sorry, not the same.
Most of the local hardware stores, the plumbing, and the electrical supply houses all suffered the same fate. The electronics store, the TV repair shops, the appliance dealers, gone. The bookstore, music shops even most of the shoe stores and jewelry stores, not since Amazon.
Home decor and furnishings, gift shops, florists, just about every small business I can think of is either closed or surviving on the brink.
Now you can get everything from eyeglasses and razors to a new car delivered right to your door with a few clicks.
It wasn't all that long ago that you couldn't find a space for sale or lease downtown or in the local strip malls. The shopping malls were full as well. One of our shopping malls closed its doors, and the other is on its deathbed.
It's not all bad. A few new businesses are opening, but most of them are restaurants, nail salons, tattoo parlors or pawn shops. Not that there is anything wrong with these companies, but I don't see them as "Retail."
There are also some survivors, those that realized they had to be able to compete online not just in their storefront. They took the necessary steps to stay competitive and embraced the new Digital World and made use of the tools it provides to drive traffic and sales. Most of them are doing just fine and even expanding.
Where does your Business Stand?
Back to my original question.
Will Your Small Business Even Exist in 2020?
Have you adapted to the Digital World? Are you finding innovative ways to compete and grow?
The clock is ticking, companies large and small are cooking up ways to grab the last scraps of business from local retailers.And, if you happen to be a nail salon, don't think you are safe, a company just showed a Nail Printer at this year's Consumer Electronics Show that will not only accurately paint and instantly dry your nails but can also print a photo on if you want. I can't think of a single type of store that is safe from the on slot of "progress."