“Everything gigantic in American [retail] is about to get smaller or die.”
That’s the dramatic claim by contrarian economist James Kunstler,writing about the big retail sector in Business Insider. He says big retail is on the brink of scale implosion.
Kunstler points to the same trends that are affecting small towns: online shopping, global delivery, higher fuel costs plus a few other factors including tighter corporate credit.
And that’s potentially a big bonus for small town retailers that have been hit hard by customers driving to the big box competitors in the big city.
In Texas, big box stores are already getting smaller, documented by the Fort Worth Star Telegram (PDF).
Charles Wetzel is CEO of the Fort Worth-based Buxton Group which advises big retailers on site selection. He noted that the new big boxes opening in DFW are taking less square footage, only a fraction of the former mega sizes.
He said, “Quite honestly, a lot of retailers have come back to the customer service days where the customer feels loved. If you can win on service, even if a product is online, people will come. They enjoy the entertainment factor of shopping in the store.”
And it’s not just Texas. Sheri Bridges, director of Wake Forest University’s retail marketing center, explained the national trend. She said, “Small is a big idea nowadays. There is definitely a trend to a smaller footprint.”
“Best Buy calls it ‘community-oriented retail,’” she said.
If the trend is toward smaller, community-oriented retail, who do you think is in the better competitive position, big boxes or stores in your small town?
Update: I’ve added more about the consumer changes driving this trend in a new article, Customers are switching to small retailers.
If you’re working on a shop local campaign to support your local small retail stores, you might benefit from the $9 guide to shop local campaigns in small towns.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.