An interesting development may be underway according to numerous analysts; an apocalypse in the retail world as many businesses are verging on collapse as they have either failed to embrace digital commerce, embraced it too late, or went about this aspect of modern business with an entirely wrong approach. I am sure all of us are aware of the ease and availability of shopping for goods online – even if we may not participate much in that market ourselves. However, around the world the numbers of consumers turning to online shopping or e-commerce. In the U.S. alone over 400 Million dollars were spent in e-commerce transactions and that number is expected to double in ten years. Even more shocking is that in a recent study of more than 300 million shoppers in six different countries, 59% reported that they turned to their smartphones and made a transaction while physically standing in a retail store! This is usually because of noticeably lower prices online due to several factors with the primary concern being the cost of overhead expenses associated with physical retail stores. Such factors have led many to decree that the retail apocalypse is upon us and that the end of the age of physical retail is in sight!
Ten Years From Now
The future will be drastically different ten years from now according to many major investors. For instance, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett said recently that "I have no illusion that 10 years from now it [retail] will look the same as today.” For example, last year Brick-and-mortar retailers have announced more than 8,600 store closures. For comparison, 6,163 stores shut down in 2008, the worst year for closures on record. Major department stores like Macy's, Sears, and JCPenney have been hit the hardest by these trends. Since 2001 department stores have lost half a million jobs. To combat this demise retailers are already trying different ways to enhance the brick and mortar shopping experience such as allowing customers to scan items as they take them from the shelves and pay for them with their smartphone which allows shoppers to avoid the dreaded long wait time in a check out line. Already taking this one step further, the online company Amazon – for instance – has launched a trial chain of grocery stores that allow shoppers to simply walk into the store where technology recognizes their presence and pluck items from the shelves and place them into their basket. Then as the customer leaves the store, technology records what they carried out with them and debits their pre-established account for the cost of those items. Other experts predict that artificial intelligence and virtual reality will allow an entirely different shopping experience in the future that may entice shoppers back into the brick and mortar retail experience. Regardless of the path that retail must take, everyone agrees that if brick and mortar store are to survive this retail apocalypse the store of the future will look nothing like it does now.
Relevant Bible Passages
The primary concern with changing trends in any form of commerce – but especially changes that involve both physical and online commerce – is the potential for nefarious control that could be exercised over this if the wrong forces were to come to power. For instance, the Bible predicts a time when all commerce will be controlled by the antichrist “and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:17 KJV). The exact nature of the mark is debated among Bible teachers, but it light of modern technology many believe it could be something as simple as the computer chip found in all new credit cards that might be implanted under someone’s skin thereby allowing them to buy and sell goods and service. Considering the trend of retail stores enabling and encouraging essentially cashless transactions as noted above, this future doesn’t seem too far away anymore. Many prophecy teachers believe this is a logical step in the stage being set for the antichrist’s rise to power in the end times.
Pray: Pray that the Lord would make Himself – and the truth of His Word – known to more and more people thereby saving them from experience the future reign of the antichrist.