I love independently owned, brick-and-mortar retail stores. I love the sense of community they bring. I love the high level of customer service that the good ones all have. I love the fact that these are one-offs rather than corporate chains with interiors designed by committees of marketing professionals trying to find a look that, by pleasing everyone, inspires no one.

So I am an enthusiastic customer of local businesses, even if it requires me to more spend time and money to support them.

But not everyone feels that way.

Internet retailing has risen nearly exponentially over the past few years, and clearly it’s the direction our nation is taking. My reaction, for a long time, was anger. Didn’t people realize they were ruining their own communities by not supporting local businesses? What would happen to our culture and sense of place if most neighborhood retailers disappeared? The owner of the tile store I frequent once said to me, with a grim smile, “In the future, we’re all either going to be working for the Internet or changing the diapers of old people.”

But then my thinking altered. This is happening and I can’t change it, so rather than mourn the loss of a retail environment that is swiftly evolving, I need to look toward tomorrow and try to find the good that is there.

Some retailers are going to survive, and most of them will be great. They will take an omni-channel approach to commerce and sell in-store as well as online. In fact, the entire concept of how products get from a manufacturer to a consumer will change and, along with that, our ideas on how supply chains function will become ever-changing rather than fixed.

If I owned a retail store today, I would be looking seriously at how to take advantage of the Internet rather than allowing it to shut me down. The online retail sector of the pool and spa industry is beginning to mature and consolidate, but there’s still room for a clever newcomer to gain market share.

To that end, we are running a series on retail excellence in today’s world, scheduled to begin in the April 25 issue. Written by Stephanie Mills and featuring Ted Lawrence, retail specialist at PoolCorp, it will take an in-depth look at what retailers can do to remain competitive and grow their future business.

Please feel free to reach out to Stephanie ([email protected]) or me with your thoughts.