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April 10, 2014 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-04-10

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The Future Of Retail


heard the sound outside the window
— a cross between one of my neigh-
bor's remote-controlled airplanes and
the faint sound of a low-flying
propeller plane. The kids ran
to the window, excitement on
their faces. "It's here, it's here!"
they exclaimed.
The faint sound grew louder
and shifted from a hum to a
steady buzz. As I looked up,
I saw the markings "Amazon
Delivery" on the underside of
the drone's wings as it mysteri-
ously lowered itself to a height
of 10 feet above the house,
directly over the front porch.
A zipping sound followed as the robotic
arms of the drone lowered the Schwinn
XP5 bicycle, in its crate, to the porch. My
iPhone then let off the new distinct "ting-
ting" ping of a text message indicating
that delivery was complete and in a flash,
the drone was off to its next stop.
As we began to uncrate the new bicycle,
which came equipped with a traffic guid-
ance system, helmet with sun visor and
riding suit, the Hiller's drone made its

twice-weekly stop dropping off grocer-
ies, and the Nordstrom drone deposited
what appeared to be shoes and a purse
that my wife had apparently
ordered. I felt like my iPhone
had become a hot potato,
tinging relentlessly with each
After the bike was set
up, I returned to my study,
placed on my virtual reality
visor and shopped for a shirt
and jeans at Nordstrom. It was
amazing, before my eyes, the
selected shirts and jeans were
on me, in the precise size fit to
my build as defined and viewed
through the virtual reality visor. I hit the
purchase button. Exhausted, I flopped
onto the couch to watch the Masters in
full bloom on the 120-inch flat screen.
I recalled those wonderful years where
I would walk the aisles of the Hiller's
Supermarket and journey to the mall
to shop. It seemed like yesterday that
"retail" encompassed brick and mortar
— for hard goods such as bicycles and
household items, as well as for food. I

The drones lined up at the
outlets reminded me of the
Delta planes lined up at the
McNamara terminal. It's sad
though. All of those people,
all of those jobs — gone. The
impact on the economy — well
that remains an ongoing debate.
By the end of the retail era,
wages had fallen so low that
retail barely afforded anyone a
living, and the hours were long
and longer. When the chains
went to 24/7 from Halloween
forward to chase the holiday
shopping season, it was clear that big
changes were on the way.
"Papa, papa; my young grandson
shouted to me. "Wake up, wake up,
Morrie and his ice cream truck is on the
street. We need to get out there right
My head cleared as I rose from the
couch and a smirk came to me as I real-
ized that at least for now, it was all a

enjoyed the physical opportunity to touch
and smell items in person before mak-
ing a purchase, as well as the dialogue
and banter of salespeople and cashiers. I
walked down memory lane, recalling the
Ben Franklin store on Coolidge and the
Freund Bike Shop.
Years later, there were all the stories
of Walmart Super Stores causing the
elimination of the small neighborhood
retail block. Then came Amazon — the
drone delivery system —and virtual real-
ity shopping. Poof! We lost Radio Shack,
Barnes & Noble and JC Penney, and by
2020 —the giants Target, Macy's, Apple,
Home Depot. Even the grocery chains had
become virtual distribution centers.


Ken Gross is an attorney with Thav Gross and
host of the Financial Crisis Talk Center show
that airs weekly at 9 a.m. Saturdays on WDFN
1130 AM, "The Fan" and 11 a.m. Sundays on

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April 10 • 2014


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