On shopping online and the shortsightedness of giants.

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Where’re JC Pennys and Sears when I need them? I have, for the first time in my 41+ years of life, ordered clothes from Amazon. I’ve bought dozens of geek-t-shirts and “specialty” adornments from online retails for years. But never have I bought something as plebeian and normal as blue-jeans online.

Back in the nascent days of the internet, both JCP and Sears were the gods of mail order retail. They had the store fronts, return depots, logistics, IT infrastructure, everything in place. All they needed was a way to efficiently put their catalogs online. A digital storefront.

They both had the trust of over 100 years of catalog sales. Sears would sell you a fraking HOUSE through their catalog at one point. Everything Amazon and other retailers had to struggle for years to do JPC and Sears already had in place.

What was their response to this new fad, the internet? They saw, for the first time, legitimate competition and market loss so they packed up their toys and went home. They gave up instead of competing. And now they’re both marginalized, inconsequential retailers struggling to stay open.

How different would the landscape online be if either or both of those retail giants had done something as simple as put their catalogs online?