NewsWinter 2019 Newsletter

Here we are yet again – the post-holiday new year, new you energy. Our workplaces exploded with sweets, we gorged on sugar cookies and eggnog, our bank accounts grew thin, and we’ve likely settled for resolutions we’re committed to keep (fingers crossed). Articles abound convincing readers that successful resolutions come in the form of small habits built over time. Sometimes our small habits are intentional – initiated in order to bring good for ourselves and/or those around us – but sometimes we inherit small habits unintentionally. These unintentional habits are often influenced by the world we live in and the habits incurred around us.

Take for example, shopping. The shopping habits of America have drastically changed over the years from local merchants and downtown shops, to big box stores and now the internet. Shopping has become ingrained in the fabric of our society and is shaping and re-shaping many generational habits and trends.

One article exploring the online retail industry referenced the start of ecommerce in 1994, after a University of Illinois graduate created a web browser allowing transactions to encrypt personal information. Since then, technology and the ability to shop online has changed dramatically. The author states, “And technology has armed today’s retailers with powerful tracking tools: We accept user agreements and pop-ups, trading gobs of valuable personal data in exchange for convenience—a commodity almost as prized as shopping itself… Stores will seek out shoppers where they spend their time, increasingly cozied up to mobile devices and smart speakers. OC&C Strategy Consultants projects voice shopping in the US will reach $40 billion by 2022, up from $2 billion this year [2018].”

Our changing shopping patterns aren’t a product of overnight change, but rather unintentional habits we’ve developed over time. Perhaps it’s in our quest for convenience, to make our lives a little more efficient, or even just to give us more free time. Regardless of our reasons, retailers are quick to lure us in…“ On the other end of that cart you casually abandon or that data you impatiently fork over sits a business that translates that behavior into real dollars and cents. Multiply that by thousands of shoppers and you’ve got a make-or-break bottom line. Times that by millions of businesses and you’ve got a fat chunk of the economy. No wonder retailers are doing backflips to make shopping as convenient, pleasurable—and quietly invasive—as possible.”

You might be wondering why you’re reading this on a planning department’s website. Well, our shopping habits too affect the planning and zoning patterns of our city. As online shopping continues to grow, the need for brick and mortar stores will likely decline; resulting in a changing landscape for our cities and a shift in how people move – delivery trucks (and maybe drones or robots) are filling our streets more each year to deliver our goods and services from groceries and wardrobes to furniture and tools. The future of online shopping taking precedent in the retail industry is inevitable, but “it’s up to shoppers to decide where to draw the line” both in terms of our economy and how we influence our cities.