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Online buying habits will ultimately shape our world | Concord Monitor

Amazon exists to sell stuff. The online retailing giant recently announced that it will pay nearly $14 billion to acquire the upscale Whole Foods grocery store chain. The impact of the sale for New Hampshire, at least in the short run, will be minimal. Whole Foods has just two stores in the state, in Manchester and Nashua, and some grocers, Hannaford’s for example, already allow customers to order online. For a small fee a clerk will select, price and bag purchases and have them ready for pickup, in some cases at curbside.

In the long run, this quest to combine stuff and convenience could change society. Some shoppers are content to order online and wait like cargo cultists of yore, for goods to magically arrive in brown or white trucks or eventually via driverless vehicle or drone. That sounds futuristic but it differs largely in delivery time from a century ago, when families ordered from a Sears catalog and waited weeks for the goods to arrive.

Some shoppers want to mingle with fellow citizens, encounter old friends and make new ones. They want to feel the fabric, smell the fruit or try on clothing. Physical stores have become rarer, yet Amazon, which made its name selling books online, has been opening brick and mortar bookstores where it can interact with customers and learn more about what they want. That quest for information about consumer shopping patterns is at least in part behind Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.

The Wall Street Journal’s business editor, Dennis Berman, summed it up succinctly. “Amazon is trying to become Walmart – not just an online megalith, but also a physical retail powerhouse with dynamic pricing and stocking strategies – faster than Walmart can become Amazon.”

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Online buying habits will ultimately shape our world.