A retail brick-and-mortar catastrophe is no longer on the horizon — it’s here and the results will be awful

I DO NOT BELIEVE the economy is as robust as the stock market says it is. For many reasons. In fact, I believe just under the surface of typical economic goal posts such as employment and stock market figures, there  is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I believe this for several reasons — lack of wage increases that should come with a healthy economy, the fact that 85% of stocks are owned by 10% of the population — as for wage and benefit increases that are NOT happening,  these happen when the economy is really growing.  Wages and benefits are not increases, thus, the economy is not improving.

What is happening is an alarming amount of retail workers are being laid off, or at the very least, given very limited hours, or hired just for the holidays. It is not news that full time retail jobs, which used to support a large part of our economy, are increasingly rare. These days retail stores carefully schedule to make sure few employees achieve full time status, that entail benefits and that has been going on for a good while now.

But it is becoming so much worse. For all the talk of coal workers, and other manufacturing industries it is arguable that no one industry exceeds the losses brick and  mortar retailers are suffering, and hence the loss of employment opportunities. I suspect the numbers on this are quite staggering, but they are hard to find.

This is huge, and it is particularly huge for women, who make up much of the retail sales force. And for older people who have turned to retail jobs to try to replace some of the income they lost when they were shut out of the job market due to their age. And yes, there are so many of them. In America these days, your long worked and fought for career is likely to not be replaceable if you are let go in your fifties.

Here are some of many articles few are talking about on this subject. Read just the headlines and the first few paragraphs of any of them, and you’ll get the idea.

money.cnn.com/…

www.pymnts.com/…

www.theatlantic.com/…

www.nytimes.com/…

www.ft.com/…

www.businessinsider.com/…

www.baxterbulletin.com/…

www.technologyreview.com/…

In fact, there are so many articles about this, it was hard to choose. Google “brick and mortar retail losses” and your head will spin with all the alarming articles people ARE NOT talking about.

It is important to note, that much of our retail infrastructure is STILL invested in brick and mortar stores, and malls. This is not just about employment opportunities, but also about the major companies who own a whole lot of real estate and square footage that is not paying off. When those businesses go down, it’s not just on the floor retail jobs that are lost, it’s all the administrative jobs that come with that that are also lost, from buying to marketing, to accounting, to warehouse, to janitorial to store planning and design, to so many jobs I can’t list them all here.

Now, there’s no stopping progress. I too shop on line more than I ever used to. It’s easy, it’s fast, and the selection is better. And I’m older, and no longer want to go from store to store to find what I’m looking for, when I can sit home and do it with a few keystrokes.

And, as more people shop on-line, the less brick and mortar stores can invest in providing selection and service, the less they can remain competitive with on line shopping, and the downward cycle is obvious and VERY daunting for this economy.

My point is this is a huge economic tremor, soon to become an earthquake for the economy. And yet, it’s all about the coal miners, and various singular and industries that have very little impact on the economy when it should be about the structure of retail as we know it going under huge and destructive change. It is consumers that drive this economy, and consumers are more and more deciding to shop on line.

This effects job seekers from sea to shining sea, and in every state. And, as I said, it is often about jobs women and seniors need.  Where are all these people going to go for jobs?

It’s not about turning the clock back, it’s about as the Atlantic put it in one of the articles I linked, “The Silent crisis of retail employment.”

Politicians are often nostalgia merchants, selling the irreplaceable virtues of whatever cultural or economic norm is in its twilight. In the 20th century, they mourned the wilting of the agricultural industry, just as they currently lament the death of factories. But in an economy that will become increasingly digitized, automated, and otherwise inflected with new technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, Americans can’t get too precious about any particular job or industry.

Instead, lawmakers should be focused on reducing human suffering as some job sectors shrink or disappear altogether. That might include universal health care that isn’t tied to any one specific company and moving vouchers to help workers manage the transition to a new area for work. Overall it requires an approach that is the opposite of then-candidate Trump’s message on the campaign: Not “how can we rebuild the economy of about 40 years ago and freeze it in carbonite?” but rather “what sort of federal policies are best for an economy that might be embarking on a period of industrial churn?”

Yes. This. And also, again, I DO NOT believe this economy is robust. I feel like we’re skating on the thin ice of stock market gains, and more success for the 1%. And the coming retail catastrophe is going to drive us into a recession, long before that loss of coal mining jobs.

In many ways, I see the death of brick and mortar stores as leaders in retail, to be the equivalent of the industrial revolution. It’s a BFD.