The Plight of the Small Business in the Modern World

We live in an age of privilege. Some might say too much privilege. Everything is at our fingertips. Everything is available instantly, or on demand, or whatever the latest terminology is for those who simply cannot wait. In other words, the kinds of people who need something (and usually everything) yesterday.

For anyone who has ever worked in retail, you will be all too familiar with the sort of customer who needs things yesterday. No matter how you explain the laws of physics or time or basic common sense, they cannot fathom how an item is not available exactly when they want it.

I have spent plenty of time working in the world of retail. I have done so in a sports shop, in a furniture warehouse and, for the most part, in various bookshops around Australia. There are parts of all of those jobs I have enjoyed—sometimes even the customers—but that is more of a rarity than a regularity.

And with the increasing demand for instant gratification which the online world can come closest to satisfying, it means the old ‘brick and mortar’ stores are in a real bind. One of the stores I worked for was located in Brisbane, and when I was there you could have done everything up to and including using a giant Brisbane billboard to advertise the store and would all be frivolous.

That store no longer exists. It went the way of so many. It closed down because of competition from bigger franchises and from the crushing hand of the online marketplace. The only Brisbane billboard it would appear on now would be as an in memoriam—which is just very, very sad.

Maybe one day it will turn back the other way, when even online is not fast enough for the everyday customer—but that day seems like a long way away.