Are mailboxes and general stores new/old solutions for contemporary service?


For one, the mailbox is answering the call for delivery of online purchases.


Amazon is now teaming up with Staples, Radio Shack, 7-Eleven and Albertsons for its Amazon Locker Service.  The physical retailers will install Amazon lockers in their stores, allowing customers to buy from Amazon and ship packages to the lockers and then pick them up later.


As we have noted in our New American Lifestyles context, individuals are increasingly moving to urban locations and these locker services, also offered by startups BufferBox and ShopRunner, may prove beneficial to those living in apartment buildings and urban environments.


For another example of the past offering a solution for modern problems, the general store is proving to be a valuable retail model in some cities.


Facing a mass exodus from urban to rural areas and a general population decline that was forcing retailers to close, residents of the German village of Barmen formed a corporation and funded the creation of a village center in 2006.  Today the 150 square meter store sells basic staples and also has an ATM machine, post office, travel center, a place to register a car or renew a driver’s license and has a doctor who comes once a week from a neighboring town.


Those who run the Barmen store have gotten so many inquiries from other towns that they have created a separate consulting firm and estimate that they have helped set up about 10 other stores, none of which are losing money.  They have another 25 stores in the works.


According to one of the Barmen consultants, the most important element of the village store is the café in the back.  While the store can’t compete with discounters on price, or with upscale supermarkets on variety, it can offer a community feel and an experience.


Simplicity (the limited inventory), Connectivity (the community of the town center) and Experience (the café) are three things that are making these general stores a success and are also three of the four items, along with Restraint, on our American Consumer Values Hierarchy.


American retailers, faced with a myriad of challenges, might want to look to Germany for some ideas.

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