April 21, 2019

Amazon ruins small-town retail businesses

Amazon, Walmart and other shopping monopolies are swallowing the retail business whole. Americans spent a record $7.9 billion online on Cyber Monday, up more than 19 percent from last year’s totals, making it the largest digital shopping day of all time in the U.S. according to Adobe Analytics. Black Friday, on the other hand, had sales drop nine percent in physical stores.

Why should it not be popular? Shopping online is fast, easy and affordable. In the same amount of time, it takes to drive down to Euclid Records and buy a copy “What’s the Story Morning Glory?” by Oasis, one can hop on Amazon, press a button and jam out to Wonderwall.

What a time to be alive when all of one’s desires can be accessed at the click of a button. All you need is some money, internet and you are golden.

I grew up in a small town hardly 30 miles east of St. Louis. A fun fact I would say at icebreakers would be that I grew up in a grocery store. My family built a grocery store from the ground up in New Baden, Illinois and had a healthy competition with mom and pop shops around the Metro-East.

Recently, however, I have had an up close and personal experience with a decline in these stores. One local family-owned chain that operated for over a century, Schuette’s market, filed for bankruptcy in August 2018. The Schuette family locations have since shut down and left tens of thousands of rural Americans without a hometown grocery.

Consumers now drive 20 minutes from town to go to Walmart for groceries. Everything else you can’t find there is online and shipped in two days with Amazon Prime membership.

More accessibility on the internet has discouraged consumers from going out to local businesses. So-called “brick and mortar” business that once defined the downtowns of small towns and big cities alike are becoming less practical. Many see the idea of the department store as a symbol of the analog past.

Here in the city, the impact of online retail is not felt as much. Downtown Webster, for example, has enough people and foot traffic to supply the brick and mortar businesses with enough revenue to keep their practice afloat. Places like the Delmar Loop have entertainment value and tax incentives for investors. The same cannot be said for the neighborhoods outside metropolitan areas.

However larger “too big to fail” retailers like Toys-R-Us and Sears have felt the sting of the monopolization of retail.

This creates a negative relationship between business and corporations. The more people buy outside of their communities the less the community retail has to stock their shelves. This leads to more people buying online and less money sent back to their community where revenue is circulated back to improve the community.

Support your local businesses. I promise shipping is free.

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