The Future of Retail Business in an Online World

One of the joys of continuing my education is having getting to write a mini-article once a week for my fellow students and instructors. I’ve decided to share some of the better ones here. B.

It’s a given that the ability to sell things online has had an immense impact on retail vendors of tangible goods. Allowing people to shop for goods in the middle of the night while wearing their PJs has made it possible for some retailers to grow far beyond what anyone could have imagined when the web was new, and some argue that this has negatively impacted shopping malls and other board-and-brick vendors. (Worstall, 2015) However, the ability to sell things online also makes it possible for individuals and small businesses to reach potential customers to a greater degree than ever before, (Gausepohl, 2016), so the new is not all bad.

Contrary to what others may claim, however, I don’t see retail stores disappearing completely. In small and rural communities. I expect that family owned retail stores will continue to provide goods in much the same way that they do today. Large online retailers like Amazon will fill a similar role to that which the Sears Roebuck catalog once did in the 1800’s, (Ferres, 2016), providing a means for people to buy goods not typically carried by retailers locally.

In cities and suburban communities, I foresee retail stores shifting their focus to offer products that are more specialized, or to provide more personalized service to their customers. (Ellis, 2014) Grocery delivery is still not really mainstream, so I expect supermarkets will be around for a while yet. Conversely, shoe stores may once again measure your feet for a better fit and more satisfying purchase. And until personalized fabrication becomes economically viable, clothing stores will continue to have stores where people can try things on before buying them. Similarly, the affluent will always want personalized attention, so luxury retailers will continue to have stores and showrooms where they can provide that service in addition to whatever tangibles are being sold.

All that said, I do agree with Worstall that the era of massive shopping malls has come to an end, but, like books, retail stores will be with us for the conceivable future.


Ellis, M. (2014, July 17). The Evolution of the Internet and Its Impact on Retail Spaces. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

Ferres, Z. (2016, February 18). What Sears Taught Amazon About Business. Retrieved from

Gausepohl, S. (2016, July 11). 14 Online Business Ideas You Can Start Tomorrow. Retrieved from

Worstall, T. (2015, January 04). The Shopping Malls Really Are Being Killed By Online Shopping. Retrieved from

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