The future of retail: Buy local
Two articles in the Dec. 16 issue ("Delivery at digital speeds" and "Is a store credit card right for you?") paint a future of retail that is almost dystopian. In the first, we read that people want and almost expect that retailers will be able to provide them with their purchases within an hour. In the second, we read that having Amazon and Target credit cards may be a smart personal finance choice.
My vision of retail would be that consumers seek out local stores for all their purchases and, only as a very last resort, turn to the big chains and the giant Amazon. The rallying cry here in western Massachusetts is "buy local." I have found that doing this as best I can brings all sorts of benefits, such as getting to know and support people who are eager to keep the local economy strong. It's exciting to see entrepreneurs starting new stores and co-ops going strong.
All the trucks and planes bringing us our Amazon purchases are not in the best interest of the planet. A recent study of working conditions in Amazon warehouses doesn't help this picture either. The lure of easy Internet shopping appealed to me until I realized it pointed to an anonymous shopping future with a total focus on cost and speed. I know that in 2014 I can buy everything I need within an hour of my house and will feel more a part of my community. That's my goal, and it looks rather utopian.
The key to Africa's economic growth
Regarding the "Gleaming African mall, dark terror" piece in the Dec. 30, 2013 & Jan. 6, 2014 issue, "Stories that will shape 2014": The threats of instability may appear to be fraying the domestic fabric of Kenya, but this instability is not systemic.
While some Kenyans may "find their rise complicated by troubled political legacies," civil society is well positioned to contribute to sustainable growth and prosperity. That is what makes the socioeconomic development in Kenya and other African countries so remarkable. The future is increasingly being dictated not by the national government or major businesses, but rather by civil society – the people. Hopefully, the trend will continue in Africa.
Mark M. Spradley
Chevy Chase, Md.