To start with, sorry Walt, but there was never a fairytale castle at the end of Main Street USA. A castle inspired by a wacky German King. My ugly home town in rural Michigan, still had a main street when I was a child. The kind of a main street with three small grocery stores, a 5 and dime, a drug store with a soda fountain and counter, a clothing store, the town library, a hardware store (that is still there - run by someone I went to high school with), a Ford dealer and a couple of gas stations. The hardware store is about all that is left today. The "supermarket" built on the edge of town in the early 70's rapidly ran the small local stores out of business, then it in turn closed as towns nearby opened larger stores, that were part of larger brands with more efficient supply chains and consumers who would sooner spent an hour driving than pay 10-cents more for a can of beans. While we long for the simplicity of main street, with everything you need (maybe not everything you want) being within walking distance, we let small town America die. In the 60's and 70's we flocked to the malls, marking the near end of small local clothing retailers. Now the malls are closing, replaced by mega markets, who are in turn now being threatened by online retail. Why should I drive to the mall or the big box store when I can shop from home, viewing all of the options and prices, and have it delivered to my door? I can't remember the last time I was in a shopping mall, I have been to Target once in the past three months, but ordered from them online three times. My monthly visit, has largely been replaced by my monthly online order. Free shipping from Prime, means I don't have to have a minimum order to avoid a shipping fee and I don't have to mask up, glove up and put gas in the car.
Yet there are still times, when strolling through small shops is great fun. You know the kind of place where you don't know what you need, until you see it and then can't live without it.
Will the changes of this year, create opportunities for a rebirth of main street?