That's certainly not what Jeff Bezos set out to do at Amazon.com (AMZN - Get Report). The guy and his teams visioned and are accomplishing something special. Keep that point in mind because, contrary to what might spring intuitively, the brick and mortuary guys do not need another Jeff Bezos.
And two ... I say "to a lesser extent" on Target and Wal-Mart because both companies appear to have realized something others mentioned in these discussions missed. They recognized the need to not only downsize some stores (that's what BBY did on its first turnaround), but to urbanize things a little bit.
Wal-Mart put its neighborhood concept into action. And, while I'm not enamored with the results, Target continues to go relatively big on its slightly smaller, urban shopping street, City Target stores.
In my mind -- and, granted, I live in my own little world -- this was an admission by Wal-Mart and, more so, Target that maybe they were too suburban. Along similar lines, Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) CEO Howard Schultz noted that his company needs to make newly-acquired Teavana more of an urban presence.
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If you're going to build a new store or relocate an exisitng one, don't instinctively do it in or move it to a dying shopping mall or similar environment. Take it to where the action (and so much of the money) is -- the nation's liveliest urban shopping districts.
For better or worse, our urban (and suburban) built environments are all about shopping. About consumption. To have lively built environments and, in turn, a robust economy, we need a thriving retail sector. You're not going to have a thriving retail sector -- at least not in a new world run by companies such as Amazon and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) -- if you don't have a fresh and innovative retail sector.
Walk the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco, bustling neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area or head to smaller cities such as Portland, Oregon. Compare them to relatively beaten down places or even beaten down neighborhoods within otherwise healthy cities. It doesn't take much of a noodle to determine that the existence of appealing retail options -- from clothing to food and beverage and everything in between -- drives vibrancy and, hence, real worth texting home about success.