by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
I enjoy watching changes in consumer buying behavior and the adapting marketplace. It’s the classic scenario of ‘find a need and fill it.’ Smart entrepreneurs will always have their eye toward emerging trends. Today comes the story of how the transportation industry is booming due to demand for so-called ‘last-mile deliveries.’ That means more and more jobs for drivers and delivery/set-up experts. Why the boom? Online shopping. And not just traditional online shopping for clothes or books. These day buyers are comfortable purchasing online the big household items that used to be the domain of the brick and mortar stores.
The market for so-called last-mile deliveries amounted to $8.9 billion in 2018, up about 10 percent from the previous year, said Satish Jindel, founder of SJ Consulting Group.
That’s a much faster growth rate than for regular freight and will continue for several years as young people age, start spending more and buy bigger items, said John Hill, president and chief commercial officer of closely held Pilot Freight Services.
“Millennials buy everything online,” Hill said. “They’re very comfortable making those purchases sight unseen.” Pilot has been expanding its national network, including through the July purchase of a heavy-goods delivery company in the Minneapolis area.
When the marketplace shifts, there will be winners and there will be losers. It’s just reality. The trend described above is clearly a big challenge for brick and mortar stores that live and die on the sale of big items. It’s tough for them. In one case, an iconic brand — Sears — is having trouble adapting to changes, for all sorts of reasons, as CNBC reports. It could be close to the end of the line.
The retailer was known for its DieHard, Craftsman and Kenmore brands that catered mostly to men shopping for home-building products. In a bid to increase sales amid increasing in the 1980s, Sears tried to go after female shoppers.
Under CEO Arthur Martinez, a former Saks Fifth Avenue executive, it launched “The Softer Side of Sears” ad campaign in 1993 to draw more women and back-to-school shoppers. But the clothes in Sears stores didn’t mix well with the washing machines and treadmills it was also trying to sell. It only made the merchandising more confusing for many shoppers, said former employees who spoke with CNBC earlier this year.
Sorry to see Sears in so much trouble. When I was a kid, Sears was the dream store for my mom and dad. We were poor so we weren’t able to buy much, but that was OK; we could dream. I remember walking the aisles as my dad admired the shiny tools and my mom marveled at the beautiful refrigerators.