Retailers – Are Mass Merchants Taking Over

Some days I sit and think back, maybe even reminisce about how it all seemed to happen so gradually.  We just assumed that the way our communities, towns, and cities grew, was the way it should be.  I remember stores, where everyone one seemed to be owned by a family; a hamburger/hot dog stand, a candy store, a drug store, a barber shop, a diner, a bowling alley, a grocery store, and even a car dealer.


 The hamburger/hot dog spot became McDonalds or Burger King, the candy store became a Starbucks, the drug store became Walgreens or Rexall, the barber shop is now a hair styling salon, the diner is now a Denny’s or an IHOP, the bowling alley now belongs to a chain that uses local people to manage it, the grocery store is now a Kroger or Safeway, and the car dealer is now part of a multi-state consortium of dealers.


Did we stop there….no, it just keeps going.  Malls became the rage.  Everything you could ever want in one place.  In effect a conglomerate of businesses together.


 Again we marched on.  If bigger is better, than lets super-size our stores, and turn them into warehouse centers like, Costco, Kmart, Target, and the biggest of all, WalMart.


While this is going on, stores learned how to show up in your mailbox, like JC Penney, Sears, and JC Whitney.  The catalogs got bigger and all kinds of direct mail followed.  A typical day would not go by without something showing up that you needed to read.

So now, communities grew up and out, towns became cities, cities became a metropolis, and stores were everywhere, including showing up in your mailbox.

Just when you thought this trend in its predictability would continue, a funny thing happened.  We found out how one thing, the Internet, changed everything.  Within one decade, the average person now was an Internet buyer too.

So we applied our bigger is better strategy and we end up with amazing things.  How a simple book website named became the WalMart of the Internet, how a sell your old stuff website named became the largest mall on the Internet, how a search directory named became our way to research anything, and how a college party website named Facebook became the social media center for our planet.

The word amazing is an understatement.  Though all this we continue to redefine the size of retail mass merchants, as they continue to evolve, from in our community, across our state, throughout our country, and finally the world.

Lately, we watched as an economic downturn became a colossal mess.  Who would have guessed an automotive giant like General Motors, an American icon, would end up having the US Government as its primary shareholder.  Government owned companies, scary, who would have thought that would happen here?

So now what?  Are we seeing the beginning of mega-merchants who in effect consume countries?  Are we going to continue to watch as companies go away or are gobbled up by something else, or are we going to bring about change?  It seems almost like a different type of monopoly than anyone ever imagined.  Now with a true global melting pot of economics, we are all linked together, whether directly or indirectly.  Scary huh!

So I think, what can I do?  Every time I decide to buy something, I impact this.  We all do, and we continue to fuel this by buying on price, with no regard to much of anything else, because our precious income continues to get squeezed or shrinks.  Somehow we need to get out of this vicious cycle.  Thoughts anyone?