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lightsoutAt this point the news that the retail giant's same-store-sales number are in a decline. That's been reported since mid 2013. But the fact that the trend is continuing amid otherwise (relatively) strong economy growth and the lowest unemployment rate since 2008 can be looked at as an indicator of the end of... something.

Just exactly what is ending and what will take its place is open for conjecture. The trend of big-box retailers decimating local retailers is now part of our legacy. Rising in its wake is the growing prevalence of online retailing. And as these online and big-box showcasing grow one has to wonder what the role of the physical store will be in 10 years.

With consumers increasingly shopping online and selecting how and where they want their goods delivered, the function of the store shelf becomes blurred. There is still a desire to touch and feel the product, but for commodity items or those well known, customers only want to touch and feel the one they actually own... and they want to own it quickly at the lowest possible cost.

Sometimes that will equate to driving to the store. Other times it will require shipment. But I think that as consumers become more accustomed to trusting that what they see online is what they will receive, and return processes become increasingly simplified (think Zappos.com here) the need to preview products will diminish.

That leaves the function of the store as a local distribution/delivery hub. Certainly the floor space could be reduced and eventually even move to a lights-out environment as robotic pickers gather orders, load them onto UAV/ drones for hyper-local delivery within 30 minutes of ordering.

What's your retail future look like? Last modified on Thursday, 09 October 2014
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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