Remember Borders? What about Circuit City, Tower Records, or Musicland? Those stores were all big chains back in 1995, when Amazon debuted. Now they’re all gone, due in part to pressure from the online retailer that’s reshaped the American retail landscape in recent decades, for better or for worse.
The company founded by Jeff Bezos has been blamed for killing off once-stalwart retail chains, forever changing the way we read and shop for books, and squashing small businesses. And to hear some tell it, the path to total Amazon domination is just beginning. The Seattle-based company is eventually going to “kill off most other retailers,” Brian Sozzi of the TheStreet claimed, arguing that only retailers offering “critical services,” like pharmacies, will survive.
If that prediction sounds extreme, that’s because it probably is. With all the talk of the death of brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s easy to forget that online purchases at stores like Amazon make up just 8% of total retail sales in the United States. For many products, including groceries, clothing, health and beauty products, and appliances, people still prefer to buy in-store rather than online, according to a 2016 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
That’s not to say that the convenience and low prices offered by outlets like Amazon aren’t a threat to traditional stores. And it’s true that Amazon did help to put companies like Borders or Circuit City out of business, though competition from the online retailer certainly wasn’t the only reason they tanked.