Is Amazon consuming the consumer?
It sure feels that way. Over the past five years they’ve grown and grown and grown, while traditional retailers like Sears, Radio Shack, and JC Penny have struggled. Office supply stores like Staples and Office have really been hit. In fact, foot traffic is down in all the malls:
Source: WSJ, 1/16/14
Retail is changing. It’s just more convenient to order stuff from the internet than to go to a store. As smartphones with shopping apps become more ubiquitous, buying becomes ever-easier. Online shopping is a massive flood that’s sweeping traditional retail away. The movie “You’ve Got Mail” now has an ironic twist: the mega-bookstore exec has no idea his anonymous email account will eat his job. Just look at what happened to Borders.
But it isn’t just retail. Facebook has become Good Morning America; Twitter what real-time journalism used to be; and Hulu and YouTube are devouring traditional TV.
The world is adjusting to the online environment by eliminating old jobs and adding new ones. 130 years ago thousands of cowboys lived in line camps, keeping the cattle from straying. The line camps went away when barbed wire made it a lot easier to manage the herd. But necessity is the mother of invention. Those cowboys found new work in a new, more productive economy.
The internet is doing the same thing today, making life more convenient for billions of consumers. I just haven’t figured out yet how to get a haircut with my iPhone.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer