We’ve all been there. The bright, fluorescent lights above us reflected off the dirty white tile under our feet, the racks adorned with anything your heart desired, mannequins in awkward poses. It used to be a big deal, an event even, going to one of these stores, but over the years things have changed. Why go all the way to the mall when you can easily buy anything you want online for an even better price. It’s obvious why people would chose the easier and cheaper option. Big box stores have failed to adapt and change to new innovations in the retail industry, and the results have been nothing short of disastrous.
It is ironic that big retail meets it end this way. Years ago, it was the one putting mom and pop stores into bankruptcy across the nation. From the massive selection of name brands to the plethora of deals and sales, mom and pop stores have been struggling since the 60’s. Retail swelled in America after World War two, a result of a post-war economic surge. Large brands like Sears, Kmart, JCPenney’s, and Macy’s morphed into mainstays in American culture. Malls began opening at an unprecedented rate and more people were shopping big box then ever before. Stores fought for each other’s customers as many shops were bought out by bigger fish in the pond. Even a recession in the 70’s couldn’t kill retail.
In the late 90’s, things began to slow down. Big box stores were still making an incredible profit year after year, so worrying about a slight decrease in customers seemed like nothing to worry about. Some stores, like Kmart for example, took the 90’s as an opportunity to renovate old stores and try out new ideas. At the time, online shopping was merely a tiny blip on the radar and was nothing to be concerned about.
Things changed in the early 2000’s. Online shopping was drawing in more customers than ever before. While the technology was still new, it was already making an impact on stores. They opened up their own primitive websites, stocked with in-store merchandise at a in-store price. That plan didn’t really work, with Ebay having low prices, and Amazon having a bigger selection. The gradual effect of more and more people leaving large retailers had taken quite a toll. The recession in 2007 was where struggling stores saw the final nail in the coffin. Hundreds of big box stores, and even entire malls, closed at an unprecedented rate. The realization that change was necessary for survival had come far too late, and things haven’t gotten better.
Sears hasn’t made a profit since 2010. Kmarts close every day, some areas completely void of them. JCPenney’s and Macy’s are facing more closures in the near future. The local Sears in my town sits with a vacant parking lot and a crumbling exterior. The local Kmart sits an abandoned husk. Only stores that have managed to adapt to the changing tide, like Target or Wal-mart, have survived. This is the end of big box retail. Empty racks covered in dust. A grimy floor now reflects an everything must go sign, hanging from a water stained ceiling. As the era of online shopping takes off, another era comes to a painful death.