Alan Diaz, AP
An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Miami on July 19, 2017.
In every age, civilizations embrace technologies that disrupt the status quo. Amazon and its internet brethren may be menacing to brick and mortar establishments but only because they make our lives richer and easier — and there is nothing new about engineers and entrepreneurs doing that.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, improvements in the national railway system and American manufacturing created regional and then national markets for most household items and business necessities.
Ever since, Main Street shops and their successors have endured disruptions and reinvention. Mail order catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward, department stores like Macy’s and Dillard’s, full-line discounters like Wal-Mart and Target, category killers like Best Buy and Staples, and now Amazon Prime and other internet aggregators.
Each wave shares three common themes — the newcomers buy and deliver products more efficiently, address changes in how Americans work and live, and exploit the hidebound management of the established retailers and municipal governments that host them.
I’m a serious road cyclist and go through tires and biking apparel the way a 10-year-old does sneakers and play clothes. My local biking store is quite large and carries a decent assortment, generally at list prices.
Either on Amazon or through one of the big internet aggregators like Western Bikeworks, I can significantly beat prices on accessories, obtain a much wider selection of brands and save a few hours after work better spent on my road racer.
The latter is terribly important. With more two-income households, the folks with money to spend working long hours and quite agile with handheld devices, and roads and transit systems ever more congested and stressed, going to the mall or downtown store is hardly entertaining — it’s old fashioned and often a needless waste of time.
The overbuilding of brick and mortar stores — which went full swing well before Amazon projected a meaningful presence beyond books —…