Increase in online shopping could threaten local businesses

ABILENE, Texas - The Financial Times predicts 15 percent of US malls will close within the next five years because of online competition. E-commerce currently accounts for $1 out of every $10 spent by US shoppers.

"You log onto Internet Explorer window or Firefox or whatever, and you're immediately going to have more options shopping than going to any mall or strip center," said McMurry Business Professor Jared Reynolds. 

The National Retail Federation said at the end of last year online sales had increased 14 percent. Overall sales were up by about 3 percent. That spike in e-commerce could cause some problems for mom and pop shops.

"It's no longer the case that if you own a bookstore in Abilene you're only competing with bookstores in Abilene, or throughout the Big Country. You're now competing with whoever's selling books on amazon.com," said Reynolds.

Online competition has forced places like Sears, J.C. Penny and Best Buy to close some of their stores over the last 18 months, but Reynolds said that kind of competition could favor shoppers.

"You'll get more products with lower prices with competition," Reynolds said. 

In order to keep their doors open, Reynolds suggests stores in Abilene and across the globe create an online presence. The Mall of Abilene said they already encourage stores to embrace the internet.

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