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Technology Creating Problems And Opportunities For Retailers


The holiday shopping season is upon us and shifts in the retail sector are becoming more evident.  

Every year, we see more people shopping online.  That’s had a seismic impact on the retail industry.   Many traditional store brands have closed locations and laid off workers.  

Rob Karr is President and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.  He said the retail industry has always been changing.  But this one has come fast.

"Frankly it’s happening so fast it’s been a little hard," he said. "It used to be retail kind of teased the consumer as to what the expectations were. Madison Avenue.  Now frankly it’s the customer who is leading the way.  Technology has led to the democratization of retail.”  

Karr said retailers are scrambling to keep up with the demands of consumers as well as anticipate them.  

The way retail was done before, with a business needing a physical location to serve a community, has definitely changed.  But all the talk about the demise of the brick and mortar retailer might be premature. 

Karr said businesses are finding other ways to give the public what it wants.  

“You know the consumer has changed.  They no longer want to walk into a mall and walk a mile to get to something," Karr points out. "So you’re seeing the old style malls that you and I might have grown up with changing.  But you’re seeing the outlet malls or strip malls where someone pulls up much closer to a store or set of stores they want to shop at…thriving.”

Karr adds smaller sized stores are also coming back and many retailers are locating in the urban core of cities, helping drive downtown revitalizations.  Craft items, including food and beverages, are also a  growing sector.  

Still, he said all businesses will have to adapt to new technologies and changing demands to attract and keep consumers.   

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