The Christmas shopping season is in full swing and there is plenty for traditional brick and mortar retailers to be concerned about.

Sandwiched in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Shop Local Saturday, but it appears as though consumers either didn't get the message or chose to ignore it.  With the national economy booming and optimism running high most expect a robust holiday shopping season.  Early indications are however, that it could be a long season for some local shopkeepers.

Early numbers indicate that consumers spent $7.9 billion dollars on-line Friday and Saturday.  That's a 17% increase over last year.   Cyber Monday shopping is expected to bring in another $6.6 billion dollars in on-line sales.  Meanwhile, foot traffic to traditional brick and mortar stores is down by 2% as of today.

The further trend toward on-line shopping is a worrisome sign for retail stores, many of which are teetering on the edge and have been hoping for a late year rebound.  National chains have been vacating malls and shopping centers like rats from a sinking ship as shoppers head into cyber space to find the deals.

Those of us who've been around a while have witnessed many changes in shopping habits.  Store lined boulevards and traditional downtown shopping districts were replaced by malls and suburban plazas.  Malls and plazas are now being replaced by open air shopping centers and downtowns are being reborn featuring niche shops and trendy boutiques and eateries.

When Sam The Butcher and Harry The Hatter were replaced by Walmart and Kmart many predicted the end of the world as we know it.  It was not.  We adapted.

On-line shopping is a threat mainly to the department-type store, many of which have been unable or unwilling to change to compete with internet shopping.  Even supermarkets are looking to change up what they do to make the food shopping experience more convenient in today's hurry up world.

While change is as inevitable as taxes and death retail as we know it is not dead.  There will always be a segment of the population that enjoys the in-person shopping experience and will seek out the unique and different specialty shops in which to spend their money.

While the Macy's type experience may be coming to a close the next generation of retail is being born and those with the dreams and the drive will figure out a way to draw the business.  How they fare against giants like Amazon will be determined by how they market their wares and the service they can provide.

Here's to the future.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Retail numbers provided by The Bristol County Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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