It has been dubbed the "retail apocalypse" – the widespread shuttering of brick-and-mortar stores across America in the wake of online shopping's skyrocketing popularity. But how do consumers feel about this changing retail landscape?
Helm and her colleagues surveyed nearly 400 consumers about their shopping habits and perceptions of today's retail environment. While shoppers were largely split on whether they preferred doing their shopping online versus in person, most agreed on one thing: If physical stores were to disappear completely, it would have negative consequences for society, such as lost jobs, fewer opportunities for social interaction and perhaps even an increase in certain types of crime.
From 2016 to 2017, store closures in the U.S. more than tripled to about 7,000. While the rise of online shopping isn't entirely to blame, it's certainly a major factor, Helm said, with e-commerce sales increasing 101 percent between 2011 and 2016. Consumers recognize this, and they see themselves as the ones driving change in retail, Helm and her colleagues found.
"We set out to figure out how consumers perceive and make sense of this change, and what they anticipate for the future – for themselves and for society – if this retail change is persistent," said Helm, an associate professor in the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.