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Are retail stores outdated?

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Just 25 years ago, the online shopping industry didn’t exist; now, it is worth trillions of dollars and it isn’t showing signs of slowing down. At the same time, dozens of big name brick-and-mortar retailers like Kmart, Sears, and JCPenny are closing hundreds of stores, with almost record numbers of retailers are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. With more and more of the shopping industry moving online, are physical retail stores past their prime?

According to the most recent retail sales report by the U.S. Census Bureau, physical retail stores still hold the vast majority of the retail market; however, this may not be the case for long. Online retail sales grew by 11.2% since 2016, while physical retail sales grew by less than 4%. At this rate, it seems like only a matter of time until online retail outstrips physical retail.

Perhaps online retail’s biggest advantage over brick-and-mortar retail is the sheer convenience of online shopping. Many items can be bought online in just minutes, without the need to travel to a physical store. According to Fortune, during holiday shopping seasons, online retail sales increased 8-times faster than physical retail because many enterprising shoppers were looking to avoid crowds, and perhaps stress, by shopping online.

Online shopping also gives consumers almost instant access to price comparisons on dozens of websites, allowing shoppers to accumulate potentially hundreds of dollars in savings over time. In addition, online shoppers can read reviews by others who have purchased the product, or even see video reviews of the product in action. These things are inconvenient or even impossible in physical stores.

With its many advantages over traditional retail, it doesn’t seem mysterious that online retail is rapidly gaining popularity among consumers. Physical stores are still far more popular than online retail and they may always have their place in the retail industry, but the day when nearly all shopping is done online looks inevitable.

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Are retail stores outdated?