Dear Crabby, Are Brick-and-Mortar Stores a Thing of the Past?

Dear Crabby,

I was giddy when the new Barnes & Noble opened at The Village of Rochester Hills last month, but I was also a bit surprised. It seems like so many other chains are shuttering stores, either in favor of an online presence or because they’ve declared bankruptcy. Is there still hope for brick-and-mortar stores or are they outdated relics?

Samantha Spendthrift

Dear Miss Spendthrift,

Some might say I know a thing or two about being an outdated relic, so I feel quite qualified to address this topic. While some of these retailers are definitely on the ropes, I don’t think they’re all a lost cause. For instance, have you driven by the corner of Avon and Rochester Roads lately? In addition to the stores already in the Winchester Shopping Center (remember when it was a mall?), an Art Van Furniture, ABC Warehouse, Aldi grocery store and I think a fitness club are being built. Aside from the fact finding a decent parking spot there in the future will be a pain in the you-know-where, all that development seems to show that people still like going into stores to shop.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

Dear Crabby Gives Advice

I think some of the problems these brick-and-mortar stores are having come from not paying attention to when the Internet and online sales started to gain in popularity. Some probably thought the whole thing was a fad – who wants to shop online when they can come into a store? I get that. I grew up during the J.L. Hudson glory days in downtown Detroit. Now that was a shopping experience. The building occupied the entire 1200 block of Woodward Avenue and stood as the tallest department store/retail building in the world. Back then salespeople were keen on helping customers. Have you ever noticed when shopping today you can never find a sales associate when you want one? Salespeople of yore took the time to know their regular customers – their likes and dislikes. They’d help you shop and would give you a courtesy call when an item you’d been looking for arrived at the store. Genuine customer service. And it made you feel special whether you were rich or not. I can remember my mom putting in her little white gloves to go shopping there. The place just made you want to put your best foot forward. Of course, like all things, the good times came to an end. The building was demolished with the basement eventually turned into an underground parking garage. Now Detroit is going through a rebirth and the former site is being given new life. Hopefully, these retailers have better luck this time around.

I think there can be room for online and physical selling space. Companies just need to pay a little closer attention to the trends (online and outlets) and what their customers are looking for. Look at Take Toys R Us. While they went out of business last year, there has been lots of talk about the company being able to open again in some capacity. And if there is one thing Americans love, it’s a great comeback story.

Hope that helps and may the sales always be in your favor.
Dear Crabby

About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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