Let’s talk shopping.
This is Alexa. Amazon’s Echo.
She’s in our house, and we’ve never ordered a single thing from her. Yet.
She basically is our jukebox, manager of our shopping list for the grocery store, and our household light switch, along with lawn watering timer.
It feels too much to also order from Amazon with her. Too much power held in her little canister.
Retail as a whole is having a moment. Not a good one, either. And it’s not all Amazon’s fault.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by videographers Dan Bell and Erik Pierson.
In the way I don’t like telling Alexa to order something from Amazon (I just go online, Luddite that I am) Bell and Pierson don’t like to see physical retail stores in such a state of deterioration.
I interviewed them recently after watching many of their YouTube chronicles of malls and stores in trouble in different states in the US. Beyond in trouble. Try dead. You can read that article here.
Bell’s mall work is stunning in terms of urban exploration. If you are familiar with any of the malls he profiles before the wrecking ball comes, the videos might even make you melancholic for a time that is long gone. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s like missing the people you may have been at that mall with at one time who are no longer around.
Pierson shows what you’ve thought about but never really taken the time to look at too closely. And this is the heart of what should concern you about retail nationwide.
Many, many stores now have issues. Bad customer service. Insufficient stock. Nothing in your size, or nothing in a color or style you’d see yourself wearing. And it’s not just the struggling Sears or Kmart stores. It’s spreading.
There’s a reason Walmart now has training academies to train workers not only about handling Black Friday melees, but also to learn soft skills such as basic customer service.
Keep in mind Wall Street, among other entities, has been decrying the retail apocalypse for years, long before Amazon Echo came into my house and took over all our electronics (with my permission of course. Jim’s not so thrilled, but he likes the music. And the timer.)
The Financial Times wonders if we’re about to see another big short just like the housing collapse, except this time in retail. You can read their take here.
As long as stores keep doing a bad job, Bell and Pierson will have plenty of work and videos to post on YouTube.