I read an interesting article recently about a subject matter I don't believe I have ever written about in the past. But it really struck me probably because it was regarding a part of the American culture that has been a standard of my generation - the shopping mall, and retail shopping in general. As most of us are aware, online shopping has definitely affected the viability of retailers, actual store-fronts where you physically walk into the place, browse around, and make your purchase at a counter, where you are waited on by a human being. But, I guess I did not realize how huge the impact has been, probably because when I do set out to go shopping, I only stop to think about "where to go"; I don't think about "where I can't go anymore because there are no longer any stores there."
One statistic I learned through the article was that in every state in America, retailing accounts for at least one in ten jobs. And, that because of that large percentage of workers who are employed in the retail industry, it has not been since the 1980's that an industry has had so many workers so drastically impacted by the current reality.
And, many stores try to compete by offering online shopping of their own. But even then they are basically cannibalizing themselves as they have to have a more sophisticated digital presence, as well as provide reliable shipping to customers. And all of that costs the store more money, thus cutting into their profits.
The whole subject brought to mind for me a notion that may not sound very palatable to many, probably even controversial, but I am going to mention it anyway. The notion is that many people in our country feel antagonistic towards other countries that we are told have "stolen" our jobs. Manufacturing that has left our borders for possibly more inexpensive labor, etc. in other countries. This, people want to argue, has left citizens in our own nation under-or un-employed. And, we want to point a finger at the "they" who have done this thing to "us."
But, isn't it interesting that the industry that is suffering a similar fate now to that of manufacturing of the 1980's is suffering because of direct choices we, the consumer, are making because we are exerting our freedom of choice to shop from the comfort of our own homes?
My intent here is not to point the finger at anyone who shops online. I shop online quite often. It's handy, and it saves a ton of time if you are after hard-to-find items. My intent of this post is, as usual, simply to draw out a point of contemplation. To consider, before we start bemoaning the "state of the world these days" and that "others" have made it so, to consider our role in it. And, at the same time, to ponder if maybe things today aren't quite as bad as some would lead us to believe. There are always challenges in life, to be sure. We are broken humans. There are problems that need to be addressed, negative experiences felt by some at the hands of others. But, we can't simply shake a finger at someone else. Maybe the first step is simply to acknowledge a new paradigm, and join with one another in saying, "okay, this is the new normal. Now what?" And face it head-on, with confidence.
Peace, my friends.