Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Requiem for an Age

Today I found out the last independent Apple dealer in Arizona just shut the doors on a retail operation that has been going off and on for over 30 years. Back in 1982, I began my association with Apple Computer (now just Apple) in an independent retail store. I bowed out of the business in 1993, but my former associates kept the business going in some form or another until their recent closing.

This isn't about Apple or any particular computer company. It is about the way technology is changing and how those changes are impacting everyone in the world. But the part of technology that has died is the personal service, help the customer, and treat the customer as friend (when most of them were friends) type of technological business. Technology today is all about moving product. It is about major retailers and manufacturers' stores. It is about marketing to China and selling computers as a commodity.

But this is death is not limited to computer stores. It is also the death of newspapers, bookstores, and many, many other small and large businesses around the world. For smaller computer dealers, the first cough of the fatal disease was the manufacturers selling their product to large chain store operators. Today, even the big box retailers are being infected. BestBuy announces the closing of its big box stores in an attempt to compete with direct Internet sales. Technologically advanced products have become so standardized, that customers have no hesitation in buying products sight unseen from Internet retailers like Amazon. How can a store like BestBuy compete with a retailer that can sell tax free directly to the customer's home?

Now the local bookstore competes with Amazon and Google and Apple and a myriad other online businesses. Local newspapers are switching to electronic distribution. It is easier and cheaper to send bits and bytes through the ether than it is to print ads on newsprint. The world is going electronic and no one, but no one can begin to predict the outcome and the changes that will move like the tides through the rest of the economy.

But I will take a few minutes to grieve over the loss of the person-to-person, face-to-face sales experience that I had for almost eleven years.

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