12Surviving the Retail Apocalypse

What Every Business Can Learn from Retail Tech

It wasn't until the beginning of the twentieth century that retail began to look like it does today. In 1909, Harry Selfridge opened the first department store on Oxford Street in London and introduced stunning window displays, the promise of excellent service, and an enjoyable shopping experience that turned stores into destinations. Then, in 1916, Piggly Wiggly popularized the self-service model. Prior to this innovation, goods were served over a counter by a shopkeeper, and products—coffee, flour, and sugar—were measured and placed in a paper bag.

Since then, we have seen the emergence of big box stores, malls, membership stores, and the mighty Amazon. Grocery stores operate like the early Piggly Wigglys, and department stores still look very much like the original Selfridges. We pay with plastic (or our phones and watches) and we order some of our stuff online, but in-store retail looks very much the same as it has for as long as anyone reading this book has been alive.

Change is coming. Retailers should expect more change in the next decade than the industry has experienced in the last century. Shoppers will browse differently, choose differently, buy differently, and expect to communicate with retailers through new channels, some of which don't yet exist.

The Challenge: E-Commerce and the Retail Apocalypse

The fastest growing stock of the 1990s was Circuit City. In 2008, Circuit City filed ...

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