Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
People like to shop. Americans like to shop. American women in particular like to shop. According to futurist David Houle, in the past 40 years, shopping went from something one did when something was needed to a leisure activity in and of itself. With changes in economics and technology, what will shopping look like in the next 10 years?
In the 1960s, consumer spending represented 60 percent of the United States' gross domestic product. By 2007, it had grown to 72 percent. Much of this growth in spending—especially in the past 15 years—was fueled by the use of credit cards, which only entered wide use in the 1960s and 1970s, and access to home equity lines of credit.
In these past four decades, we have become a nation of shoppers. Shopping centers and mega-malls have changed the retail landscape of America. "Going to the mall" became an activity and a social event. You shop a little, stop at the food court, shop a little more, take in a movie and lug all the purchases to the SUV to take home.
Then came our reorganization recession to slam the door on this shopping activity. We took stock of all that we had purchased and found out we had too much stuff. Consumers have been so scarred by the Great Recession that indulgent impulse shopping won't return full force for years. We have too much debt, we have too much stuff and we realized we need to save more. All these trends have been manifested in recent economic measurements.
Retail sales have been down or flat over the past two years. The only areas that have shown growth have been the technology sector and online retailing. The technology sector has shown strong growth as we all clamor for ever cooler smart phones, app phones, portable game players, flat-screen televisions and tablet computers. Shiny new objects that expand our connectivity and social interaction seem positively irresistible. Online shopping has seen double-digit growth for the past 10 years. We have come to like the convenience of shopping at home; we like the fact that we can shop 24 hours a day from any place in the world and never leave the house.
So, where does this leave the future of shopping?