A sea change happens one drop at a time …
Problems at the Mall
I make my annual Christmas shopping trip to the mall around December 10 every year. For at least the last ten years, I have purchased calendars at a kiosk in the mall. I usually buy at least four calendars: a 365-day desk calendar for me, another desk calendar for my youngest daughter, and a desk calendar and wall calendar for my oldest daughter.
The calendars for my youngest daughter and I vary in theme every year depending on what is available and what I bought last year. However, I always buy my oldest daughter both a Pittsburgh Steeler desk calendar and wall calendar every year. How I happened to spawn a rabid Steelers fan while living in Northeast Ohio is another story. I know I am very much a pattern shopper, but my routine is relevant to the rest of this story.
About five years ago I was surprised when the calendar kiosk moved to a much less prominent location in the mall. I reasoned that the mall had raised rental fees and the company had decided to change locations rather than pay the higher cost. The new location must have cut into sales too much, because the next year the calendar kiosk was back at its previous location, although it was slightly smaller. Then each subsequent year, it was scaled back some more. This made business sense as fewer people were going to the mall, due to on-line shopping and competition from superstores. As sales decreased at the kiosk, costs were lowered by reducing the rental space.
This reduction in calendar selection did cause some issues for me. It became more difficult to find calendar themes I wanted. This year, the kiosk was about half the size it was five years ago. They took the board/card game kiosk that always stood next to it and combined it with the calendars into one kiosk, about the size of the original calendar kiosk. I was immediately concerned about finding desirable desk calendars for my daughter and myself, but I fortunately found two good ones. However, the number of sports team calendars had been greatly reduced, and there were no Pittsburgh Steeler calendars.
The sales clerk said they had sold out of those because it was a popular calendar this year. Of course, based on my many years of experience buying calendars at this kiosk, I knew this was not true. They didn’t have the calendars this year because they had significantly cut inventory. I paid for my two calendars and drove home thinking about how I could get the Steelers calendars before Christmas.
Ten minutes after returning home I logged on to calendars.com. I quickly found my Steeler calendars and, surprisingly, they were both $5 cheaper than what I usually pay at the kiosk, and shipping was free. I also noticed the wide variety of desk calendars they offer; my guess is at least 10 times more calendars than the kiosk. The calendars arrived in eight days, and everyone had a Merry Christmas.
Now where do you think I’m going to buy all my calendars next year? Multiply this change in my buying behavior by millions of purchases, and it explains the already enormous growth in on-line sales and suggests it will continue. Now this wasn’t my first on-line purchase, that happened in 1999. I remember it because my co-worker Kurt congratulated me on having the courage to submit my credit card number on-line. Of course, there are still issues. I ordered something this summer from a Facebook ad and the bogus company failed to send the merchandise, and also hacked my credit card number. Overall, for many items, on-line purchasing is superior to in-store shopping.
The World Gets Smaller and the Supply Chain Shorter
My most interesting gift this Christmas was a pair of sneakers I customer-ordered from China. The shoes were ordered from another Facebook ad (I guess I’m a gambler). What makes the shoes special is that they feature the name and logo of my alma mater, The University of Akron. Instead of stocking inventory of assorted sizes of the hundred or so universities (assuming) available, they only need to stock the shoe “shell” and then print the graphics on fabric and glue it to the shell. So, through the magic of the Internet, I can custom order Chinese-made goods. I would be very interested to see the actual factory where my shoes were made.
I ordered the shoes just after Thanksgiving, and they arrived one week laterthan promised (they got delayed in customs according to the package tracking they provided) but got here four days before Christmas. My wife loved the gift! (not easy to please), and I got a pair for myself. However, I don’t think the logos and images are licensed, so technically I am wearing illegal shoes to the Akron U basketball games. I have not been arrested yet.
The Sea Change For Transportation
Huge selections and free shipping. Ordering customer-made goods from Chinese factories. These are the drops that are fueling this sea change. And just when you thought this movement was containable, 3-D printing is only beginning. More ships are about to be capsized, with the changes to transportation and logistics again inevitable.