The Changing Nature of Retail: The Impact of Online Shopping on Cities

retailtrends_2017As consumers increasingly buy online, technology is changing the shape of our cities, reducing demand for retail space, increasing freight congestion, and leaving parking lots empty.

As I look at plans across the country, there are always beautiful images of people strongly along sidewalks window shopping in vibrant mixed-use centers with plenty of shops. As planners, we tend to see retail as an essential part of our communities. However, as I reflect on my own changing shopping patterns over the last few years, I recognize a dramatic shift in the amount of shopping I am doing online. 

A 2014 study found that 78 population of the U.S. population over the age of 15 bought something online in the first quarter of that year. A 2013 study found 69 percent of U.S. adults make purchases online at least monthly and 33 percent shop online weekly. If there is a child in the home you are more likely to make weekly online purchases: 40 percent of households with one child, 56 percent of households with two children, and 66 percent of households with three or more children. Consumers between the ages of 25 and 33 spend more online than any age group—averaging $2,000 per year.

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