Scene In Passing: E-commerce alters holiday sales to come

Carson City holiday shopping and spinoffs like city sales tax take will wind up solid this year for several reasons.

Longer term, however, online retail sales growth will take a toll on bricks and mortar shops here and elsewhere. Mobile devices, apps, the Internet and other technological inroads change how people shop. Internet trolling will force all retailers to up their online games even as their existing shops must find the proper niche by heightening services and featuring unique offerings.

Shop owners know of this need to cope with the Internet’s expanding competitive footprint, as was shown by a recent quote provided to the Carson City Visitors Bureau about shopping locally. It was from Michelle Popejoy, owner of the Jewelry Bench at 209 S. Curry St., who talked of offering unique items via custom work and nailing sales with sound price points.

“I try really hard to beat the Internet on diamond prices,” she said. “If I can do it, I will.”

What makes this holiday season look good locally? With Black Friday in the rearview mirror, buyers are off and running as they key on a slowly ascending economic recovery.

Nevada’s October jobless rate fell to 7.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, or 6.6 percent without the adjustment, more than two percentage points down from a year ago. In Carson City, the rate dropped to 6.8 percent. Employed people have disposable income, but the jobless don’t. In addition, taxable sales the first nine months of this year were up both statewide and in the city. They were up 6.3 percent here in September.

Local vehicle sales perk along and declining gasoline prices, perhaps the biggest immediate stimulus, are below $3 a gallon. An aging auto fleet means some this holiday may put a big family gift in the driveway and new keys under the tree. Let’s not forget there are new stores in Carson City: Sportsmen’s Warehouse; Bealls; Ross Dress for Less; Rue 21; a couple of new dollar-type stores, and more. Added choices; more local shopping.

Despite all that, the trend isn’t the friend of bricks and mortar retailers longer term. Some stats: national holiday sales this year could go up 5 percent, but so too will orders online.

National e-commerce, according to eMarketer, is set to grow 16.6 percent this holiday season to $72.4 billion. That’s up from last year’s 15.3 percent rise to $62.1 billion from the $53.9 billion sold via the Internet in 2012. Extrapolate such growth to 2020 and you see a massive change in retail emphasis on the horizon. In addition, an online shopping mobile explosion looks inevitable.

In 2013 on Black Friday, it was the season’s biggest mobile sales day. Any bets on the Black Friday just past, or on those to come the rest of this decade?

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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