Cover Story: Brick, Click, Boom

The disruptive force of e-commerce

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor
Melissa Vonder Haar, Tobacco Editor

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Amid talk of Amazon drones, the obsolescence of the U.S. Post Office and the disruptive force of e-commerce, coupled with the relatively new world of mobile-phone use and online shopping, the convenience store industry may be on the verge of ... something we have yet to pinpoint.

No one believes c-stores as we know them will go away. The construct of convenience has built-in bunkers such as the impulse buy, gasoline sales and age-restricted products.

That said, the click vs. brick debate is a compelling one. As an industry investing in the future of the latter, the drive to at least consider the possibilities of what lies in front of us is strong.

That’s what three CSP magazine editors have done. Taking a more personal, introspective approach to a largely subjective and elusive topic, Angel Abcede, Abbey Lewis and Melissa Vonder Haar explored different aspects of the debate—supply chain, cross-channel competitors and c-store evolution—to provide a comprehensive review of the matter, identifying potential threats and looking ahead to what retailers need to do to come out on top.

The Weight of Disruption

By Angel Abcede

Three months ago, a house-flipping pal was helping me organize my kitchen. One of the first things she did was rip the dead phone off the wall, shove the cables back in the hole and spackle over it.

The freedom of today’s mobility is sublime and mind-blowing. At what point do I realize I don’t need my lizard tail? That I don’t have to wait in line for a movie ticket, drive to the drug store for razors or actually walk into a bank—ever?

And that the corner post office with its beautiful Depression-era sculptures of men and women working to rebuild a nation is in danger of being shuttered, like my old wall phone shoved back in a hole and spackled over forever.

OK, stop. The weight of seeing my universe as a box within a box within yet another box is wearing me down, making me feel dated, like a Field Museum fossil.

And in doing so, I consider fixing how I do things in light of today’s technology to save both time and money. A new sun is rising, and I vow to let go of what was and embrace what is.

As a citizen of the New World Order, I regroup. I think, well, I’ll never buy another bookcase—or book, for that matter. The bank is screwed; I don’t know why they insist on building new branches on every corner. And yes, tell me what else I can do with my phone besides make calls, check emails and text.

There are many reasons to think that e-commerce is a threat to convenience retail. Brands are making clear moves to compile names, track data and build relationships. Amazon.com is getting into groceries. Brick-and-mortar’s purpose in a mobile world has yet to settle out—or, put another way, the clock is ticking for the physical store to prove its relevance.

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