Online shopping: Rapid rise of online shopping impacts local retail

Dean McFarland
For the Daily Reporter

For us old timers, it’s disappointing to see the retail stores we grew up with closing their doors. Major retail stores such as Sears, Macy’s, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Office Depot and many others we all have shopped in are closing stores in many locations, according to Activist Post. The largest projected clothing retailer in 2017 will be Amazon, according to Investor Business Daily. Online shopping is growing at an extremely fast pace in the U.S. and projected to reach $523 billion by 2020, according to Forrest Research, Inc. This is driven largely by the increase in online shopping, particularly on mobile devices. The fast-paced lifestyle of today for most people does not warrant taking the time to visit a retail store.

I am sure that many new shopping tools will be introduced shortly to eliminate what’s left of the advantages to visiting a store in person. For many, the ability to try on clothes to check for proper fit and looks is critical to a final buying decision. I believe that someday soon, you and I will be able to electronically create a mannequin with an app, representing personalized body dimensions and looks and fit on the clothes of your size.

Many of the stores that are closing were built in the 1970s and 1980s, and due to their low prices, eliminated the independently-owned Mom and Pop stores that dominated the shopping world of the past. In many small towns, the only shopping facility left today is closing, leaving those folks with no local marketplace. The store closings across the nation are creating difficult to replace job loss, particularly in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, where manufacturing jobs have been greatly reduced with moves to other countries. We also lose the ability to communicate with each other and help each other when we only shop online.

Something not talked about with local media, regarding these nationwide store closings, is also the result of the current shrinking middle income population, which in the ’80s drove large retail stores’ marketing efforts. Today for 51 percent of working individuals in the U.S., their yearly income is less than $30,000 per year, while the cost of living has been some 2 percent a year above the wage growth for about 10 years. These large store chains were built to market to the huge middle income and affluent population of the ’70s and ’80s, which has been greatly reduced with a modest portion now moving into the higher income group and a larger portion falling to the lower income group. In other words, the upper and lower income groups now match the middle income group. The middle adult income for Americans is no longer the majority as they were in the ’70s.

This country became great for a number of reasons, which included manufacturing of many of our needed items. As other countries showed positive movement in their manufacturing capabilities, we slowly over time relinquished our manufacturing talents and time to other countries. The beginning of this trend started with clothing and has extended to televisions, most electronic items and many others. Recently, the top-rated cars being sold in this nation are built in foreign countries. I often think of the founder of manufacturing, Henry Ford, and wonder what his thoughts would be with the current trend of farming out most manufacturing in the country. It used to be that buying items marked “Built in the USA” meant something to people, but not anymore. We have fallen far off-course with keeping this great country in the forefront thus getting back on course will take much more effort then what we as citizens have allowed to happen in the past.

We must do all we can to stop this fast-paced trend of losing growth in the very important middle income group. It is time to wake up the political leaders of this great nation to concentrate on reversing this very dangerous trend with this nation if we are to be the great nation we are so capable of.