Towns, commerce and the future

French towns are withering and losing their core, while shopping centers outside of the cities are booming, as recently described by the New York Times. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the suburbs are going through an equally dramatic transition. Malls are being outcompeted by e-commerce and eventually have to shut down, leading to shrinking demand for chain-restaurants and other services that previously were being frequented by hungry and entertainment-seeking shoppers.

Stories like this could be written about towns in various countries. The creation of shopping clusters outside of city centers and the rise of e-commerce are two global themes that no one will be able to stop. The best way to look at the shift and its negative consequences is therefore with a stoic mindset, following the principle that what you cannot control, you shouldn’t not spend a lot of time trying to control. As long as a city doesn’t force its population to shop at the local stores (which hopefully will never happen), more shops and old school businesses will vanish. The economics and experience of getting things from the giant mall or – increasingly more likely – from the internet, are generally too intriguing for consumers to let the undesirable side effects for the community come in between themselves and the convenient purchase or unbeatable bargain. Continue Reading

Mobile platforms and retail – comparing Apple(s) with Oranges

You can read this article in German here.

Spotify and Apple are in yet another vocal battle over the app store, payment conditions for apps on the platform and the underlying question of whether competitors to Apple Music are being discriminated.

Whenever this topic comes up and the point of a potential conflict related to Apple’s double role as platform gatekeeper and platform user (= app publisher) is brought up, someone responds by referring to the widespread practice among retailers of selling their own store brands alongside products of competing brands. According to this argument, because store brands are a very common and accepted practice, Apple or Google becoming their own platform customers and offering products that compete with those of other platform customers must not be questioned, either.

Something strikes me as problematic with this comparison. Continue Reading

Pebble’s most recent crowdfunding success proves that pull manufacturing is the future


Some weeks ago I wrote about the many disadvantages of physical retail and why we should abandon it immediately if we could (which we cannot yet for socioeconomic reasons). One thing I did not mention in that post but which most likely will play a crucial role in changes to come for retail is the rise of product manufacturing based on specific demand. One could also call it the switch from push to pull manufacturing.

Until now, most products were produced by companies that could not be sure whether all or even a high percentage of units would be sold. Instead, guess work, predictive market research and individual opinions decided about volumes. Then placements in stores combined with different marketing activities were used to create demand and generate sales. The existing products were “pushed” into the people’s field of attention in the hope that people would buy. Continue Reading