Retail Apocalypse: Students Talk Online vs. In Store

Olivia M. Mathon, Staff Writer


It has become the norm to scroll down your Instagram feed and see advertisements for online stores like Fashion Nova or Shein or to peer over at your classmate’s laptop screen in class and see them doing online shopping instead of taking notes.

For the past two years, students may have noticed the amount of large retail store closings alongside mom and pop shops, in what is revealing itself to be  the “retail apocalypse.”

With online companies like Amazon taking over the market on practically everything from shoes and clothes to everyday items, physical stores have faced increasing competition and are closing their doors at an increasing rate.

“Many companies have turned to sales promotions and increased digital efforts to lure shoppers while shutting down brick-and-mortar locations,” Thomas Barrabi of Fox Business wrote in a recent article addressing major store brands that have announced more store closings expected in  2019-20.

A 2018 study conducted by SimilarWeb found that Macy’s is the top e-commerce site, followed by Amazon, Nordstrom and The Gap.  Meanwhile, stores like Payless and Toys R Us have closed, much to the dismay the Torch spoke to some St. John’s students and frequent shoppers alike on why this increase in bankruptcies and store closures  are occurring.

“It’s more convenient to buy stuff on Amazon from my bed in comfy pajamas,” junior Amanda Schledier said.  She admits to doing most of her shopping online due to its convenience, entertainment factor, and the selection. “It’s hard to compete with large brands or companies like Amazon.”

In order to compete against online stores, retail giants like Target and Walmart have attempted to increase their online sales with ‘online only’ discounts. “Walmart’s U.S.-owned e-commerce growth accelerated to 43 percent in the third quarter, while Target posted a record 49 percent year-over-year surge, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch,” said Thomas Franck of CNBC.

The convenience of having the world at your fingertips was once not available to society but in today’s day and age, it’s unavoidable for most — making online shopping the go to option.  

People are also turning to online shopping due to the variety that can be found on almost all store websites. From petite to tall to plus size and everything in between, online stores offer it all whereas when you shop in stores you can sometimes come up empty-handed.

“You have more options. For example, I have to buy tall clothing and online stores have a larger selection for tall sized clothing,” Schledier said.

There are many different body types, which can make shopping a stressful experience. Online shopping eliminates that stress for most.

“I shop petite, so I definitely have more options when I’m shopping online,” student Emily Lo said.

Online shopping has also proved to be incredibly entertaining. Scrolling through millions of options and filling your cart up with items only to empty it out without buying a single item is one of the most time consuming yet satisfying things to do online. It’s like window shopping from the comfort of your home.

“I do it almost every day,” Lo said of the satisfaction that comes from filling up your cart just to empty it. “It’s a fun thing to do, especially if I’m bored.”

On the flip side, freshman Danielle Urban, who shops both online and in-store says that she prefers in-store shopping to alleviate the hassle of returns and not knowing what you’re actually going to get.

“It does affect students because it is easier to buy clothes and necessities online, though there is no guarantee it fits, or you like it. With that being said, you then have to go through the process of having to send it back which will end up costing more money than if you would have just bought it in store.”

This is a huge downfall of online shopping, especially for students who have to go through the long process of shipping the items back.

For most students, the act of online shopping easily outweighs the battle of in store shopping, but with every type of shopping, there will always be positives and negatives alike.