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Online Shopping: Convenient, Or Catastrophic?

Nowadays, shopping online has become the norm nationwide. In fact, U.S. teenagers are more likely to shop online than in department or physical stores, with Amazon claiming the title of most popular shopping destination for this demographic. And considering that there were 3.5 billion global internet users in 2016 alone, with 7 out of 10 Americans having at least one credit card, it's safe to say online shopping is now more popular and convenient than ever. However, the cultural shift to online shopping isn't without its consequences. E-commerce has proven harmful for small businesses, the environment, and overall consumption habits nationwide.

Small Businesses Suffering

With the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon, many small businesses have struggled to keep up. And it isn't just brands that specialize in e-commerce that are using digital shopping to push smaller companies out of the competition. For one example, look no further than glasses and eyewear. While some small brands have managed to maintain a foothold through online retail, just one luxury goods company produces 75% of the world’s designer sunglasses. Labels such as Chanel, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren are all designed and made by Italian company Luxottica, and they also own Oakley and Ray-ban brands.

While it is possible for smaller companies to list and sell their products online, keeping up with larger corporations that have more resources at their disposal can prove difficult. Over time, this gives a competitive advantage to retail giants who are able to sell online, nudging smaller, locally-owned businesses out of the competitive sphere. While this might not necessarily drive small companies out of business, it does prevent them from growing and expanding through online retail.

Climate Consequences

E-commerce hasn't just been bad for smaller businesses; it's been damaging to the environment as well. Shipping speeds have only increased over the years, and that response time comes at a cost. Nearly 12 milliontrucks, rail cars, locomotives, and vessels move goods over the transportation network, and all of them require fuel to run. E-commerce and the shipping processes it creates contributes significantly to air pollution, global warming, and resource drains worldwide.

Shopping Habits Shifting

Despite some of the harmful impacts online retail can have, it's a shopping habit that's not likely to change any time soon. The number of potential online fashion customers is projected to grow to more than 1.2 billionby 2020. As people grow more accustomed to the delivery speeds and convenience of online shopping, it becomes difficult for small shops - both online and in person - to meet expectations.

Just because the way people are shopping is changing doesn't have to necessarily create harmful consequences for your favorite local businesses. When possible, choosing to shop small and local can help counteract some of the challenges major online retailers create. For example, furniture and home furnishings stores generated about 106.78 billion dollars worth of sales in 2015 Although online sales are very popular, consumers are still choosing to go to brick and mortar stores for high-end items. Additionally, try to be patient with smaller stores that may not have delivery times quite as fast as Amazon or other major online stores; smaller shops simply don't have the same resources as these corporate giants, but often need the business even more. E-commerce has been changing the way we shop, with both encouraging and potentially harmful results. With this method of shopping more popular than ever, it's likely the landscape of retail will continue to change in the years to come.


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