Villagers won’t give up retail stores.
Most observers say shopping malls will disappear in the next decade. A major enclosed mall hasn’t been built in the United States since 2006. According to real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield, visits to shopping malls have declined 50 percent since 2010.
But while traditional “brick and mortar” stores may be on their way to extinction, Villagers shouldn’t worry. Stores here or near other retirement communities will not become obsolete.
Here’s why: Marketing trends likely to doom most retail stores don’t reflect the shopping habits and preferences of those 55-plus. Today’s studies are measuring millennials who buy with technology.
Younger Americans, led by the extremely convenience-minded, cellphone-dependent millennials, buy more online than ever before, according to marketers. Handheld technology makes online shopping faster and easier. And “no questions asked” return policies make it risk-free. Also, with no stores to maintain and no sales people to pay, companies can offer online prices are sometimes cheaper than in stores.
But it isn’t just apparel, books, household goods, electronics, and taxi rides being bought. Grocery shopping is also done via e-commerce. Place an order on your phone, drive up, and get it in your car free. A small fee brings groceries to your doorstep.
Most of this new “buying from afar” is strange and uncomfortable for seniors, who swear by the old adage: “Don’t buy a pig in a poke.” To seniors, including most Villagers, a picture on a cellphone screen isn’t always “worth a thousand words.” For example, few Villagers risk buying apparel without feeling the fabric, seeing its color and quality, and trying it on. That means visiting a store.
And what Villager would pay for eggs without checking the carton for broken ones? For us, it’s best to verify quality and price first and buy later.
Shopping is also a social experience, a way to get out of the house, see what’s new, maybe meet and chat with a neighbor.
Some Villagers have caught the online shopping “bug.” But I think none would pass up the in-store experience altogether. To those who won’t stop going to stores, please help me out: Let me know where I can find a great price on a pair of jeans, waist size 38 (well, almost).