Online shopping has exploded. More and more people have moved from shopping in a physical store, to shopping through their phone or computer. Whether you are shopping for technology, clothes, beauty products, or even food, it can be found online. With the click of a couple buttons, the item that you have been looking for can arrive at your doorstep in a matter of just days. While this is convenient, many people don’t understand the power behind their online purchases. We as online shoppers need to cut down on the amount of online shopping that we do.
Many stores are now closing doors due to the inability to compete with growing e-commerce. According to CNN, store closing announcements more than tripled to 7,000 in 2017. This count continues to rise as time goes on. A large portion of these are due to online shopping. For example, Radio Shack was put out of business as a result of online shopping. A year before they closed, they made a joke at themselves stating that their store was from the 80s. It simply could not keep up. Sears is another large chain store that has closed 123 of their locations. According to the Chicago Tribune, this put over 50,000 workers out of business. In an interview with Greater Boston News (WGBH), Nancy Koehn, a historian, Harvard Business School professor and entrepreneurial leadership expert explained “Sears is a store that lived through the Great Depression and world wars, but it can’t survive the age of online shoppers”.
The closing of all these stores is taking its toll on employees. As I previously stated, Sears alone caused 50,000 workers to lose their jobs. This does not take into account other stores that have closed their doors for good. Brian Schaitkin, a Senior Economist at The Conference Board, writes that retail has the potential to lose over five million jobs by 2040. These are people that have families to care for and children to feed. According to the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas, over 80 percent of workers in the retail industry do not have college degrees, and over half lack any post-secondary education. When these workers lose their retail jobs, not having further education makes finding another job even harder. For some of these people, the money that they make from this job is what enables them to have a home, food and to be able to support their families. These job losses are leading to poverty and homelessness due to a lack of income.
The biggest contributor to the online shopping trend is Amazon. As Mrinalini Krishna, former television arm of the Economic Times with a Bachelors of Arts with Honors in economics contends, “Amazon has disrupted traditional retail and accelerated the demise of struggling players”. Amazon is slowly suffocating the retail market. It has gotten to be such a large company that lawsuits don’t have the ability to harm them. They have been caught selling counterfeit Mercedes Benz parts, copyright of other companies’ products and forging fake reviews of products. Most of their customers aren’t even aware of these problems. A person may argue that while Amazon reduces jobs in the traditional retail market, they create jobs within their company. However, the amount of jobs created by Amazon does not in any way contend with the amount of jobs that the retail market produces.
Another side of e-commerce that is becoming increasingly more prominent is the world of online optometry. According to the Vision Council, a non-profit trade association for manufacturers and suppliers for the optical industry in the United States, consumers bought nearly $600 million worth of prescription glasses online last year alone. With the growth in purchases of glasses online, there are consequences that many people are not aware of. The American Optometric Association, warns “when glasses are bought online, accuracy, lens durability and fit become questionable”. This is a similar situation to what happened with Amazon and other online stores not having enough product quality control. It is one thing to risk product quality when purchasing a new jacket or pair of shoes, but compromising your health and vision is not worth saving a few dollars. Wearing glasses that have the wrong prescription in them or have false measurements, which has happened many times using online companies, can cause headaches and damage your eyesight over time.
I have to admit, online shopping is palpably easier. You don’t have to take the time to leave the comfort of your own home to go to the store. Instead you can simply pull out your phone, click a few buttons and you are done. However, there is a factor about in-store shopping that simply cannot be replaced by online purchases. When shopping in a physical store, you have the ability to try on clothes to see whether or not they fit or if they are, in fact, of good quality. As projected by Retail Dive, a digital publication reaching over 599,000 industry decision makers, the ability to see, touch and feel products as well as take items home immediately rank highest among the reasons consumers choose to shop in stores versus online. Along with online shopping comes the hassle of return policies in which you are not guaranteed all of your money back. This is due to added on shipping and handling fees. Sometimes, it’s easier to just keep the product than having to go through repackaging it, taking it to the post office and paying money to have a company take back the product that didn’t meet your standards. Instead of having to go through this long and expensive process, shopping in-stores is the best solution.
Overall, the world of online shopping can become dangerous if we continue to abuse it’s usage. Cutting out e-commerce as a whole is simply unrealistic. Instead, consumers need to become aware of the impact that our actions have on others as well as ourselves. Continuing on the path that we are on, (increasing our amount of online shopping) will lead to huge problems down the road for ourselves and for others. So next time you feel as though you need to purchase something online, remember to think about the impact that it has on the people of your community such as the hard workers and small business owners. Make the decision to support stores and put forth the effort shop in store more often than online.