business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Motley Fool reports on a new Deloitte survey saying that for the first time, a majority of end-of-year holiday shopping is expected to be done online rather in bricks-and-mortar stores.

Last year,, the story says, “there was an even 47%-to-47% split between online and in-store purchases, with 6% going to catalog and direct mail purchases. This year, the breakdown is 51% to online purchases, 42% for in-store, and 7% to the other category (catalog and mail order). For households earning in excess of $100,000, this trend is even more pronounced, with 57% of their budget expected to be devoted to online purchases, compared to just 39% in brick-and-mortar stores. Department stores also ranked a distant third behind the internet and mass merchants in terms of shoppers' destinations this holiday season.”

So let me get this straight.

E-commerce is up.

Bricks-and-mortar is down.

Department stores are down even more.

Now, the story does suggest that there is a silver lining for physical retailers - the more silver in shoppers’ hair, the more likely they are to go to traditional stores. And right now, it is senior citizens and baby boomers still have most of the country’s wealth.

I’d suggest that this ought to be cold comfort. Because senior citizens and baby boomers are going to die off, and be replaced in terms of wealth ownership by younger people … and the Deloitte study notes that the younger you are, though, the less likely you are to go to a bricks-and-mortar store to do your holiday shopping.

The Motley Fool puts it this way: “The results of Deloitte's survey suggest it's not going to change anytime soon. Unless mall-based retailers adapt, they could run the risk of going extinct by the time millennials and Generation Z have the bulk of this country's wealth in a few decades' time.”

My only quibble is that I don’t think it is going to take the shifting of wealth to create a broad shifting of shopping habits at all times of the year. I’m a baby boomer, and I can guarantee you that I’ll do more of my holiday shopping online than in actual stores. (This isn’t just because I’m young at heart.)

This isn’t to say that bricks-and-mortar retailers should just give up. Far from it. Traditional retailers have advantages if they are able to create a defined, differentiated and compelling shopping experience that cannot be replicated or replaced by an online retailer. What they cannot do is just do things the way they’ve always done them.

None of this should be a surprise - or an Eye-Opener - to anyone who has been paying attention.

Except that for many, it probably is.
KC's View: