Retail Apocalypse Can Lead To Suburban Renaissance

by MR Magazine Staff

As technology changes, a country’s industrial mix changes. A century and a half ago, most Americans — and indeed, most human beings — worked on farms. Today almost nobody does. Nowadays, a substantial number of Americans work in retail, ringing up purchases, stocking shelves or helping customers find what they need. But in a decade or two, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether brick-and-mortar retail will continue to dominate the urban, industrial and occupational landscape of the U.S. Naturally, many people are worried that e-commerce is coming for their jobs. Given that it’s often difficult for workers to transition to new lines of work, this is a perfectly valid fear. But in the case of retail, I’m not that worried. Unlike manufacturing, where overseas competition in the ’00s derailed many Americans’ careers, retail doesn’t involve that many specialized skills. Usually it’s just managing people, talking to customers and doing routine work. Those are the kinds of skills that will transfer to other jobs. In other words, it doesn’t seem likely that out-of-work cashiers and store salespeople will be cast into lower-paying jobs or onto the welfare rolls for the rest of their lives. They can go into health care, food service or a variety of different service jobs at companies in many industries. Read more at Bloomberg.