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Thanksgiving has come and gone making way for the kickoff to the traditional holiday shopping season. Once again, this year, I avoided the shopping malls and did much of my shopping online. I have been doing that for years and love every click of the computer mouse or tap of my cell phone screen. Yes, I have begun to make mobile purchases and love the convenience.

I have not stepped foot in the local Town Center mall in years other than to go to a few restaurants or a few shops on the Patios. But going into the actual mall has not been a necessity and I don’t miss it. In fact, the last time I went into a store I marveled at how antiqued the place was. Nothing seemed to have changed with the increased competition of online retailers. It looked exactly the same as it did twenty years ago. Merchandise is laid out on display, sometimes shabbily, and it’s a crap shoot if they have your size. Many of the employees at the larger national chains are plodding through their shift neither caring about me as a customer or are ill-informed of product details.

Why bother with that hassle, when you can shop online? I have been buying everything I need online—office supplies, shoes, clothes, books, and now even groceries. When I do go out to a store, I do my best to go to local small businesses because typically they are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. That is refreshing over the mall chain stores.

I have often wondered what will happen to the malls. A recent article predicted that twenty-five percent of the malls will close across the country in the coming years. It is a shame that retailers and mall operators have not anticipated the changes brought on by online retailing. Instead, they seem to be just reacting in unimaginative ways to the new competition, if at all.

If the malls are to survive, they need to reinvent themselves. The mall was once a social mecca, a place you went with family or met up with friends to shop. It was a centralized location with all the retailers you wanted to fulfill your needs. Now, that has migrated to your computer and mobile device. So, what will make you go to the mall? What’s the draw? That is the question that the malls operators and retailers should be asking.

Some have said that retailers have become showrooms where people go to try on items and then purchase them online. Well, why not make them showrooms and have an example of every size available that can be tried on and then ordered online in the store? That is what I don’t get, in the past I’d go to a store see something I wanted and they don’t have my size—boom, they lost the sale. But if they had your size to try on and then just shipped it next day to my home they’d have my business.

There are so many other things that they could be doing to make the stores and malls more of an experience, yet they seem paralyzed. They are not anticipating the eventual equilibrium that will occur between physical stores and online shopping similar to what has happened between e-books and print books. Remember the claim that print was dead? Far from it today with print sales climbing and e-books sales plateauing; it has merely changed giving the consumer choices. And that is what it’s all about—choice.   

The retail landscape has been changing for years and it continues to accelerate online while the brick and mortar retailers and malls appear to be watching their businesses evaporate. Give me a reason to go into a store or a mall and I will but until then, I am taking the route of ease and convenience online for now—it is less stressful and frees up my time for more important things like being with family.

 Dave Bossert—Commentary

Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on several boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.