I heard a new term “book desert”. It is an area that has no books stores. It used to be there was always a place for a few neighborhood books stores along with a big box retailer. The costs of retail space grew and grew and forced many of the small books stores to close. The speed of e-commerce and online retailers, like Amazon, have killed the big box book retailer. While I do miss the look and feel of a book store – I do not miss the prices and having to drive to a book stores and end up ordering a book they do not have in stock… I can do that from my desk or my smart phone I don’ need to go to a retail location and place an order with someone who has a bolt in their nose and pink hair.
The story of the books stores is also the story of so many other retail models; music stores, specialty stores, camera stores, sewing supply stores, mobile phone stores, computer stores, even office supply stores, cigar stores, and travel agents. So now we have a term we had coined called strip slums. So many of them litter one’s view in a day’s drive: empty parking lots, damaged buildings, fences up, graffiti everywhere. It is the natural progress of making certain business models obsolete. Just like the era of big steel mills came to an end with more efficient mini-mills, the business that used to rent space in strip malls are being replaced by e-commerce.
We are not saying that all strip malls will be closing – no, but at 38 sq feet for each person in the US – strip malls are definitely over-built. The tenants of today are there because there is no “on line alternative” – things such as barbers, nails, muffler shops, bars, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc…. these are the new tenants.
What I have found funny are those “experts” saying that the future of the strip mall is mixed-use, residential and commercial. What part of the business model is dead do they not seem to understand. These expert’s opinions are doubly flawed if you want me to live in a space above a muffler shop or a bar.
E-commerce is changing the way consumers interact with merchants, if the merchants do not change the suppliers of the merchants will be hurt too. Doubling down on a losing proposition is doubling a loss.
Technology effects us in so many ways – even the low tech business of renting space.