Carnes: Industries need to adapt to changes or they’ll fade away (column)
April 9, 2018
Record stores were a really big thing from the 1950s through the 1990s. It was a tremendous industry with tens of thousands of locations and a few hundred thousand employees.
Video rental stores were a really big thing throughout the '80s and '90s. It was a tremendous industry with tens of thousands of locations and a few hundred thousand employees.
I was fortunate to own a few of each during the good years.
Today both industries are relegated to the annals of history, and those hundreds of thousands of employees and owners had to adapt to market changes and find employment opportunities elsewhere.
About 100 years ago the coal industry employed almost 1 million American workers. Today it is less than 50,000, production has steadily declined over the last three decades, and electricity produced from coal is half what it was in 1985.
Regardless of desperation promises from President Donald Trump, it is an industry on its way out the proverbial door.
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Luckily, I've never owned a coal mine.
And now the president is attempting to single-handedly stop the growth of the online shopping industry by attacking the biggest dog on the block, Amazon.
Ignoring the market effects of his words and extremely proud of the size of his stick, he is swinging it wildly in the form of tweets as he attacks Amazon owner Jeff Bezos while making demonstrably false claims about taxes and costs to the United States Postal Service.
He claims Amazon is killing jobs and putting brick and mortar stores out of business, while here in the real world today's consumers demand more choices, more competitive pricing and more convenience, and they get all three with online shopping.
Traditional stores, even here in Happy Valley, have needed to adapt or go the way of land line telephones, film cameras, the Yellow Pages, office supply stores, etc.
Let's be blunt here: Online shopping is the present and future for the bulk of consumer purchases, one only has to look at Sears, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, etc. to reach such a conclusion. However, it is not the final, nor even the first nail in the "brick and mortar" coffin, as the president implies.
One look in our valley proves otherwise.
Neither are companies that ship products like Amazon does a threat to the USPS, as they themselves "receive no tax dollars for operating expenses" according to on their own website, nor do they take a loss "on every package" like the president claims.
To be even blunter (if that's a real word): Everyone knows Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, which, like most news agencies today, more often than not paints an unflattering picture of the president and his actions, and that is the sole reason for the president's childish attacks.
Put it this way: During his campaign Trump said he "brilliantly used laws" to pay "as little tax as legally possible," yet last week tweeted another condemnation of Bezos for not paying enough taxes, although Bezos pays every penny the law requires.
The point is simple: A man in power is attempting to use that power to kick sand in the face of an industry he knows nothing about but instead is using that power to publicly attack a man who he believes offends him through another business that has nothing whatsoever to do with online shopping.
And that, American ladies and gentlemen, is much more concerning to me than the normal course of evolving industries.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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