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Smartphones killed the retail store


May 07, 2012
You can call me old school.

After all, I grew up in small-town Mississippi.

Life there tends to enjoy the traditional. And while I like new technology, I also know there is a price to be paid.

That price is showing up in the real estate market. Best Buy is one of those that is feeling the direct heat from easy Internet shopping.

For some time now, Best Buy has suffered from a lack of customers browsing their showroom, but making their purchase from Amazon.com. As a result, they've announced the closing of 50 stores this year, two of which are in Georgia.

In 2009, Circuit City started along this path, couldn't stop the bleeding and eventually shuttered the entire business. A friend of mine just sold his mortgage business's brick-and-mortar location. All of his employees work virtually from their homes, cars and Starbucks.

It's been great for his company with lower overhead, a relaxed atmosphere and more profit.

But I'll miss dropping in just to say hello, looking at his latest outdoor adventure pictures on his wall and grabbing an impromptu lunch.

Admittedly, I've contributed to this new shopping shift.

I like to browse Barnes and Noble for books.

I love everything about a bookstore, especially the smell.

But I do browse and sometimes order from Amazon.

Who can blame me? I just bought a book for six bucks, including shipping. That same book would have cost $28 in the store.

Borders Books couldn't compete with this paradigm and eventually shuttered their doors.

Smartphones and the Internet are changing our way of life.

Where this will eventually lead, who knows?

Retailers are finding it harder to compete with online stores. Business owners, in an effort to increase profits in a tough economy, are becoming virtual.

Vacant buildings are not just a victim of a bad economy, but a victim of this overall change in the way Americans shop.

While we may win in the pocketbook, we will lose in the connections with people.

The days of dropping by a "Mom and Pop" business, where you know the proprietor by name, are dwindling.

These are days we will reminisce about with our grandkids.

We have to hope that businesses will adjust to this new paradigm. We hope that they'll figure out how to survive in this new world we've created.

Just as the predictions of the 80s hit, "Video Killed the Radio Star," didn't quite pan out completely, we hope that smartphones won't completely kill the retail store.

Brian Patton, CCIM is a commercial real estate broker, author and speaker. He can be reached at 770-634-4848 or via his website: www.CommercialPropertyGuy.com.
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