The History and Evolution of Retail
- January 20, 2021
Children today may not believe that people once had to order products – by mail – and wait four to six weeks to get them. They may not even believe you have to go to an actual store instead of just clicking “Buy Now” and having their goods dropped off two days later (or even the same day, thanks to drones). Given the evolution of retail in the past several years and the prominence of ecommerce solutions, one might think that brick-and-mortar is no longer relevant. This is far from the case.
The History of Retail
In the early days of retail, the General Store was… everything. You stocked up on staples; you picked up your fabric to make your clothes; you stopped and chatted with your neighbors. In the 1950s, we saw a shift towards malls. Mammoth buildings housed several shops and were typically anchored by a larger, more prominent store.
Malls became more than a shopping destination; they became places of community and culture. One could spend a whole day at the mall, shopping and window shopping, having a bite in the food court, and more.
Big box stores ushered in another era of retail. Destinations in their own right, they began to push out smaller stores in many areas. In others, however, they actually drove traffic to mom and pops.
A little online bookseller propelled the ecommerce revolution forward in the mid-1990s. Amazon started life peddling books. Today, they sell virtually anything, from food and beauty products to electronics and hardware. Today, ecommerce is a $62.5 billion/year industry!
Despite this, sales in physical stores dominate; they total $152.7 billion. People still need and want physical stores. They provide a tactile and often personal experience – and if you’re buying shoes, you often need to try on several sizes to get the right fit! That’s just one example.
As the evolution of retail continues, we’ll see a mix of in-person and online shopping experiences. Savvy retailers know that even if their main base is a brick and mortar location, they need a strong web presence to pull people in and keep them engaged.