NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I spent about an hour the Friday before Thanksgiving in Minnesota's Mall of America.
That mind-numbing 60 minutes goes a long way to explaining the predicament companies such as Best Buy (BBY) face.
But, it's not just Best Buy. A whole slew of retailers will either die or lead uninspiring lives without unprecedented intervention.
Investors and, sadly, many brick and mortar retail executives float an ultimately tragic misconception: That they just need to do a better job selling online and utilizing digital and mobile platforms. If they do this, they can level the playing field against physical innovator Apple (AAPL), e-commerce pioneer Amazon.com (AMZN) and others.That point of view scopes successful retailers through a simplistic lens.
Conform and You Will Be Cast OutI'm glad I had the chance to visit the nation's largest shopping mall, but the experience reinforced something I studied with intensity in college. Urban planning professors -- you know, those ivy- or Berkeley-educated, elitist liberal hacks -- drilled it into our heads: Suburban shopping and strip malls have no future. At least not vibrant futures. Rush (not Limbaugh!) was right: Any escape might help to soothe the unattractive truth/But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth. I have read countless scathing critiques of suburbia over the years -- Jane Jacobs provides the best one in her seminal The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Practically every suburbia hit piece since Jacobs' spews considerable scorn on shopping malls and strip malls. While I don't dislike the suburbs as much as I did when I was in college, I have never been a fan of the predominant built environment most Americans not only live, but shop in. Both the living and the shopping part apply. "Shopping" has become an online sport and an urban sport. The online part is obvious. We're using e-commerce sites, across platforms, to shop more than we have ever before. That engagement continues to grow. Countless studies support this trend. The urban sport part requires a bit more explaining. In fact, a test of my hypothesis would make for an excellent multi-method research study. Trips to the suburban mall or strip plaza have become less enticing than they used to be. You can blame Amazon and the online commerce explosion for this. Physical destinations -- as places to shop -- do not matter as much as they once did. And, thanks to ubiquitous social media, they have also, by and large, lost their status as meeting places.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV