It seems that Amazon has yet to find a market that it cannot disrupt. The Whole Foods acquisition is nearly as surprising to me as many of the other moves made by this growing giant. How do you ‘Amazonize’ retail food distribution?
I have grown up in a world where retail was retail and where one walked into a physical store, made a selection, paid and walked out of the store. If we didn’t do that, we probably looked at a printed catalog and ordered what we wanted. Then we found ‘The Internet’ and did our shopping in that manner. Amazon has been in, and still is in, the process of turning virtually everything retail on its head. Wal-Mart used to be the monster of retailing. That position is slowly altering given the impact that Amazon has had on the entire retailing industry. Alex Shephard has a piece in the New Republic that mentions Amazon’s impact on bookstores. It built a bookstore in 2015, will have seven brick and mortar bookstores by the end of this year, and will be ranked as the fifth largest chain bookstore in the nation.
Amazon is a classic disrupter and it has really only just begun based on how it is growing itself. Generations after mine are each less dependent on brick and mortar stores and more and more dependent on The Internet. I still think of something I need as being available at this store or that store…physical places I can drive to and walk into once parked. I am part of a dying breed; it is almost a dead breed, in fact.
I mentioned buying a book yesterday and mentioned that I purchased it from Amazon. Maybe I am still salvageable and can get used to using the web for my needs even though I admit that is still mostly a second-thought approach. And, I am from a much older generation having been born in the midst of World War II. If I can accommodate this new way of buying things, virtually anyone can.
It seems that nearly everyone is using this mode of acquiring ‘things’ more and more. Amazon is the perfect example of what is happening, actually what has happened while I was still doing things the way I’d always done them. Need this? Get in the car and go get it. While I was driving to a place to find something, Amazon was taking that necessity off the table…or soon will have in many areas. Specialty retailers will survive, at least for now, but that is already being turned on its head, as well.
The retail world is being transformed rapidly. Amazon and its ilk are far more disrupting to good old Mainstreet retail than was Wal-Mart…and Wal-Mart was certainly more than sufficiently disruptive. There seems to be a race underway. On the one hand, we see new shopping districts going up while we’re also seeing empty storefronts as we stroll through the older malls that were the leading edge seemingly just a short time ago.
This is almost a Rip VanWinkle experience. The speed of this movement has done nothing but accelerate. It will continue to accelerate since it usually, almost always, costs less if we can simply wait for gratification for a couple of days at most. And, the wait times will be changing rapidly as ‘drone delivery’ comes of age which it nearly is today. Literally same day delivery is right around the corner.
It will take maybe two generations, at most, for this ‘instant gratification’ world of retail to make huge gains in terms of market share. If we think we’re seeing a lot of empty space in our shopping centers of today, can we even imagine what the empty store fronts will number in a decade? Sears, K-Mart, etc., etc.
Most of us recognize that change is inevitable. Most of us older members of society have become accustomed to seeing/experiencing change in things we might’ve felt were absolute constants that would be the same throughout our lives. The speed of change has accelerated, though, to an almost dizzying level. My grandchildren have already succumbed to the reality of this new world and I am thankful for that.
What are the future Jeff Bezos of the world going to do to disrupt this latest thrust? I can’t even begin to imagine that next generation and the generation after that. And, I can still remember walking with my Mother holding my hand to the local grocery store where she used coupons for various things that were rationed due to World War II and our need to support the war effort.
I think I am happy that I cannot see into the future too far.