Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Retail Ruins

There’s been a lot of press ink spilled on the demise of retail. All you have to do is look at the huge number of failed and failing malls to get a feel for that. Add to that the number of main streets falling into ruin and maybe they are onto something. Right now there are numerous YouTube channels that do things like explore dead malls.

Apparently, hanging around the mall was a once a rite of passage for suburban youth. When I was growing up the nearest real mall was at least one hundred miles away. When I did get to to a mall it was a big deal as it was something different.

Over the years I slowly came to the realization that malls didn’t really have much of what I was looking for. My shopping tends more towards hardware stores, building supply, marine supply, and books. Malls used to have bookstores, often two or three different ones. These days you are lucky if a mall has even one, and they generally aren’t doing well.

Last week on a rare sunny day my lovely wife took the long trip over the White Mountains to the tourist town of N. Conway NH. It was like driving from winter into spring so definitely worth the trip south. The downtown is crammed with lots of little shops. They cater to the Massachusetts tourist crowd taking advantage of New Hampshire’s zero percent sales tax.

It was pleasant to be able to pop in and out of the many shops. They even had things I wanted to buy. They had some odd items like a special tea infuser and a universal peculator glass top. Combining all our purchases I think we spent something like sixteen dollars. We certainly aren’t the ones keeping the downtown alive.

Closer to home, away from the tourists, the local downtown isn’t doing all that well. Of course the major employers left, along with half the population. It’s hard to keep a downtown vibrant when that happens. There are some businesses hanging on and a few new ones trying to make a go of it. I’ve seen worse looking main streets. Still, it’s a struggle.

On-line shopping is a major force. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to get things home delivered than to drive miles hoping someone will have what I need.

Currently the largest employer in the nation is Walmart. Even they are quietly closing some stores. It’s a drop in the bucket, but there’s no business law that states they can’t go under too.

I thinking that maybe there are fewer people who shop recreationally and are sticking to things they really need. When you get right down to it, we generally need a lot less stuff than we buy. Economic and social trends could quickly rewrite the retail map.



  1. I would rather pay for home delivery, but with Amazon even that is taken care of. Of course, I don't need as much as I used to think I did, ya know?

    1. Yeah, I know.

      I try to support local businesses, but since there are fewer it's hard. They don't help their case when they provide poor service with a surly attitude. The good ones I'll keep going to, even if it costs a tad more.

  2. I think on-line is a lot of it, but I think people simply don't have the disposable income they used to have.

    1. Wages for most people have not kept up. Hard to have retail when people are broke.

  3. I am at the age where I don't need or want much, except food and water. I will not live long enough to wear out my clothes and I am quite comfortable with what I have.

    1. Shopping for its own sake doesn't much interest me either.