I want to veer off a little from social networking today. Fear not, we shall return to our normal programming tomorrow.
This weekend my wife and I went out for a movie and dinner date. As the mature adults that we are , we decided to see Hop. Then we had dinner, and were about to go home, before seeing a Borders offering 90% discounts on their books. Our mouths drooling at the site of those signs, we immediately found a parking spot and went in. As we entered the Borders, we saw the signs below.
I understand that a number of the employees at Borders must be pretty apprehensive to still be working at a place that they will be fired from in the next few weeks. There are a number of feelings probably going through their head right now, including fear, resentment, hatred, and understanding.
At the same time, I believe whenever you put up a sign at the front of the store that says, “No Restrooms. Try Amazon” you clearly do not understand why your company is out of business.
It sort of reminded me of Chicken Little, a story my parents apparently read to me every night for a year and a half until they could not stand reading it to me night after night anymore. I barely remember the story, but they still can recall the entire story by heart when you mention it to them.
There are a number of different versions to the story, but from what I remember about the one that my parents read to me it was how you should not believe everything that you see. These employees saw a big company, like Borders providing long lasting income and security. At the same time, when the acorn/pink slip hit them on the head they became frightened.
So, where am I going with this tale of Amazon restrooms, Chicken Little, and income & security?
The world has changed without us even knowing, and I see even more changes like this in the future. The internet has blindfolded long standing businesses into obscurity. Additionally, with the new recession the idea of masses of people going to work at a factory or office-like factory will be destroyed
Instead, here are some changes that I see happening in the near future that will finish the changes we have seen over the past few years.
First, I believe that the real estate fall will also lead to another larger fall in commercial properties. According to recent research there are somewhere around 35 million home household offices in the US. A large percentage of those are home based businesses.
If you figure that the average family has their 2.4 kids and that maybe half of the home household offices have the old family value of 2.4 kids then we are talking about roughly 78 million people in the United States who either have a large percentage of their income or all of their income derived from their home household offices. There are 311 million people in the US, so roughly 25% of this country works from home.
How can the commercial market fully recover with such a large part of the US economy not following the traditional 9-5 work schedule?
Second, when all of these businesses collapse what will happen to the tax base? Illinois is a perfect example of this. The state has been scrambling to balance the budget as they cut services and raise taxes (see Open Letter To The Death Of Illinois Corrupt Officials).
What happens when all of the businesses that pay real estate tax, employee taxes, and pensions close? You are left with a huge mess, which is evident across the entire country. Right now, I have not seen one politician who consistently understands the challenges that are occurring outside of a traditional Democrat/Republican viewpoint. Raise taxes, lower taxes means nothing when steady businesses close, and entrepreneurs who do not like the tax rates move out.
For me, I found something in Borders bigger than books. I found a world changed, and a system that does not work anymore. I want to come up with ideas that would work, but I also am interested in your opinions of how we can help. Or perhaps I just see the sky falling?
Hi Andy ~ Well thought out post, and very relevant to the current economic times. I live a block away from a Borders that announced a little over a month ago it was closing (and get the impression they are in their final days now). It does not surprise me that stores such as Borders are having to close their stores in that, for me personally, whenever I would visit this store, whatever I seemed to be looking for they did not have in stock, yet would offer to order it for me, and I’d get it in about 5 days (at full price!). I was surprised that they never seemed to catch on that if they choose not to have more inventory on stock in stores, then they could have at least had a faster way of delivering these items to customers in a quicker fashion. With this scenario repeated, why should I have continued to patronize them when I could get what I wanted, shipped to me faster and most likely for less by order online?! Before Borders, there were numerous other national chains that have since closed their doors locally including Blockbuster, Circuit City, and most recently Ultimate Electronics. As much as I do enjoy shopping “in person” because I like to be able to see and feel items that I may purchase, more and more I do find myself purchase items online because 1) I can get EXACTLY what I want 2) I can easily “browse” around for the best price, and 3) 24/7 shopping and I don’t have to leave my house. Those are just things that cannot be competed with via actual store. Back to your statement about the “Amazon sign” on their door, totally agree that they don’t understand why they are going out of business AND make it obvious they are extremely sour about it! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about this 🙂 Christine
I saw the same sign and really was shocked. I know the world is changing, but I always liked to stop in and browse and buy their books. We do have a few other stores in town that are still open. I can’t really believe that Amazon having their Restrooms (LOL) put them out of business.
Those are some interesting numbers. Definitely a different situation where I live. Most people here are still into the 9-5 office jobs. I believe many mothers want to work from home but many are still scared to take the risk.
I don’t have any ideas to share with you. I’m interested to know what ideas you have come up with. By the way, did you have a good shopping spree at Borders?
You are a person with vision you can see the message that we are in a changing economy. We must stop the fear mongering and hep people to see that the economy is changing as you say the sky is not falling. In fact the sky is opening to a bright future for those who see the change. This is an excellent message.
Perry A Davis Jr
Music City USA
Oh Andy, you do paint a horrible of the future here. Unfortunately, I think that you may be right on the mark.
The economy is rather prone to the domino effect. When you push it every piece falls and it takes a long time to get back on track again. Sure the politicians talk it all up but, on the ground, we know what it is really like.
Good points Andy about the economy changing but the big shots in Washington aren’t getting the message. I guess they are too busy selling us under the table to sit up and take notice.
What a coincidence! I took my old Mom for a coffee at our local Barnes and Nobles store. Cool way to spend a moment… only if you can find a place to sit!
But to get back to your post, yes it is an interesting opinion you raise and one which I subscribe to. In many ways we are getting back to the old days of the Cottage Industry.
Always amazes me how fast the wheel turns and to see a return to “home business” for the descendants of those who left their homes in droves to work in cities, offices and factories is interesting to say the least. History always repeats itself.
And as usual, we will adapt, transform and create. Because we owe to our kids and because the alternative would be frighteningly devastating.
Well written article Andy. Wish I could say I was sad to see Border’s go but their version of customer service has been an issue for me for some time, and no matter what type of book I was looking for they never seemed to have it in stock. There are two Border’s within minutes of my house, so as an avid reader you’d think that would be nirvana for me . . . and yet for the past year I’ve limited my book-buying to either Amazon, or driven 20 miles to the nearest Barnes and Noble.
I don’t know enough about real estate to comment the future there, but I do believe that more bricks and mortar businesses will close their doors if they don’t get that we the customers have more options than ever before so service – and yes, attitude – will rule when it comes to who gets the sale.
It really is sad to see so many big stores closing their doors.Shopping online has hurt many of them.It is so much easier and saves on gas and many times you don’t have to pay taxes or shipping. On the other hand I do think it is sad to see these stores close.I like to look and shop in person too.Not sure what the answer is but if you live in the USA we should all do our best to buy local.
Interesting post, Andy. Yes, the times they are a-changin’, and yet we have people lining up to buy iPad2s the day they first appear!
The interesting thing about a shift in the economy is that once it all settles down again we find things seem much the same as before, with just the names changed. Since we manufacture so little in the US these days, we rely on retail and service business. Remember some of the names of the past – Woolworths, Green Stamps, Piggly Wiggly. Some regional, some national, but they all disappeared to be replaced with other brand names. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
This doesn’t help the people caught up in the change, but I find the perspective that shows this is nothing new at least tells us it’s not Chicken Little time!
Thanks for the post, Andy.
Hi Andy, I’m not sure if it’s because I might be older than you and most of the commentors here… However, I see this as just another technology change where people will learn more skills in other areas and move on. I remember when computer and robots first started reducing the number of employees and/or changing their workplace significantly.
In the very early 1990s, I fell in love with computers right away, and learned skills that many others were reluctant to learn. I got a job in an Information Technology consulting and taught hundreds of employees to learn how to use a Personal Computer. Those who didn’t want to learn it ended up leaving and getting jobs elsewhere.
It will be the same for the people working at Borders or other bookstores and any other “physical store” that has been “taken over” by internet sales. They will learn other skills, perhaps they’ll start their own home business and do much much better than they would have working at Borders.
There is so much more opportunity for people now, with the Internet, I think it’s a wonderful time for people to learn new skills. Times are always changing….
Regards from Julieanne
Andy wow this is just another sign that the job sector has imploded and that we really need to be teaching people to make their own way.
By that I mean of course introducing them to the home based business model and what it can equate to with the right effort and compensation plan. This is a sad state of affairs but also a great opportunity to help people take control of their lives.
Our world has definitely changed. Up here in Canada we haven’t been affected as much but things still have changed. I wish I had the answers to what is next.
Hi Andy. Thanks for this post. It hit on some very important points, and especially one that is near and dear to my heart and that is customer service. I was a customer service representative for Hallmark Corporation’s Crown Center Complex, and signs like ‘No Restrooms, Try Amazon’ the epitome of what customer service has come to in this country. I live in a very small town, and I try to shop locally whenever possible. However, I get really teed off at the lack of customer service I encounter – clerks who talk to each other instead of me, clerks yacking on cell phones while waiting on me, no one acknowledging me when I walk in the store. Why should I pay more to be insulted when I can drive 25 miles to Walmart where a greeter will say hello?
Also, life goes on. Think of jobs that no longer exist: gas lamp lighters, buggy whip makers, key punch operators. The list goes on and on. We all have to be ready for change, and if we don’t change we will be left behind. I love this world of technology – everything I could possibly want right at my fingertips, friends all over the world – it’s so wonderful and I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to be part of it.
Wishing you a song in your heart,
Miss Leslie @ Music with Miss Leslie
That’s a pretty amazing sign in the window. It’s clear that the wording was a mistake but still…
What would be the best way for someone use the bathroom at Amazon?
How would a customer pull that off, a Zip file, UnZip…probably both!
There is so much change happening right now, if it’s ultimately good or bad will only be understood in hindsight. I read a good article recently about unemployment. It distinguished between temporary unemployment and structural unemployment – jobs that have gone overseas and won’t come back. The real opportunity is in seeing the transformation that is currently taking place and aligning ourselves with the future that is being created.
Hi Andy, interesting post. I live in Illinois also and this state definitely in trouble. Is it because of all the changes. Maybe. But I doubt it. It seems to me that if you don’t let politics determine how to run an office, but to use business sense, things could have been in much better shape.
I am an eternal optimist, so I do not see the future as bad as you seem to. There is a lot of change for sure, but that means that some jobs/stores will disappear and others develop. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect balance. There will always be ups and downs. But in the long run it will level out.
This is supported by the fact that the unemployment numbers are on the way down again, suggesting that jobs are opening up.
I see what’s happening today as a transition into a new kind of economy and workforce. One that is built on the individual and the services he/she may offer. Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin” talks about this and although such dramatic change like we are seeing now are turning everything upside down, new innovations are happening. It doesn’t help at the moment, but I am optimistic. The internet has changed many things as well. I see all of this as a creative time. How to help? For me, learning all I can about what I do and getting better at it, learning new skills, and depending more on my own talents (still discovering those .. LOL).
Andy, I agree with Perry, the sky is not falling. The world is simply changing . . . as the world/people/life tend to do. As a marketing instructor, I’ve learned that businesses that do not keep up with the their customers’ evolving needs, wants, problems, and challenges will be stuck selling buggy whips — or not selling them, as the case may be.