One of my recent blog posts about having the ability to print your own accessories or replacement parts raised some more questions about its impact on the environment and how our culture is built around the shopping mall.
I have worked for two retail companies. One was a small specialty computer store and the other a large big box store. The owner of the small electronics store would display visible anger when you didn’t buy and support locally. Although I understand the logic of keeping the money locally, at what point does this argument to support local business begin to break down?
Competing on price is tough and I’ll not argue the value of having a good relationship with a small service company. It’s nice to have someone to call that you trust. Or beneficial to have a place to try before you buy. But for the purpose of this post, my focus is on the big box store model. Fifteen years ago when I was working in retail, the complaint was the big box stores moving into town. Today, we could compare to the growing popularity of shopping online.
My question is raised from a debate from guilt for having everything shipped to my door. My argument and all things considered, if they are not shipping an item directly to me, a much bigger shipment is going to a warehouse with the hopes it will be sold. If it is not sold, it will be discarded or shipped back.
Today we can have just about anything shipped right to our door but from an environmental point of view, is it better that we have buildings in every town stocking inventory, providing heat and electricity to this building, shipping back or trashing what doesn’t sell, and having thousands of visitors drive to the store every day… or is it better to have several courier trucks who will deliver exactly what you wanted from much fewer warehouses? Case in point, Amazon only needs 49 buildings spread across 8 countries — 2 of which are in Canada.
Hypothetically, if we were not required to maintain inventory in every town and city across the country with every possible product you may or may not want…
- Would it reduce traffic? How many drive from store to store looking for items or sales?
- Would it reduce the required energy with fewer buildings?
- Could it reduce how much is being shipped around the world? So much product is moved that will never be sold.
- Would it slow down the development of new buildings due to constant expansion?
- And would we all purchase less?
So many questions without any answers.