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Back to the Future Pt. 2: From 1985 to Today

We had quite a bit of terrific feedback from our first Back to the Future themed blog installment that discussed what retailing was doing back in 1985. Now it’s time to drive the time travelling DeLorean back from 1985 to today and see what happened over the last 30 years.

For regional malls, the golden age of proliferation and seemingly unending expansion into even tertiary markets has come and gone.  “Hanging out at the mall” has been steadily replaced by “hanging out at an entertainment-centric center,” or even “hanging out at my computer” for those mesmerized by the ever easier and broad based product access of internet shopping.  That said, as in nature, the strongest malls have survived and flourished. When in Southern California, check out South Coast Plaza (is there a world renowned designer who doesn’t have a presence there?) and Fashion Island (amazing ocean view shopping amongst an Italian Mediterranean inspired oasis of fountains, courtyards and olive trees) for a taste of ongoing mall success.

The last 30 years has also seen the big box retailing concept experience a rapid aging as many retailers regroup to smaller formats and many large box category killers continue to fall victim to the internet and other brick-based alternatives.

Speaking of the internet, some time travelling trivia:

  • 1984 – the first domain name (.com) is created
  • 1991 – the world wide web is born
  • 1995 – Amazon sells its first book
  • 1996 – online retailing emerges

Since 1996, overall internet sales in the United States have continued to expand dramatically.  In 2009, internet sales took in $155 billion or 6% of total U.S. retail sales dollars.  In 2014, it grew to almost $250 billion, and by 2017, just 20 years since its essential birth, internet sales are expected to capture 10% of the overall market with over $370 billion in sales. That growth seems destined to continue and to keep putting the pressure on traditional retailing to keep up the competition for consumers’ dollars.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog: a look into retail’s future 30 years from now in 2045.  This blog installment will actually be a live interview from the cockpit of the time travelling DeLorean onsite at our very own booth (C143L) at Recon 2015 in Las Vegas.

Larry Sullivan is the President of Passco Companies. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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