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The rise of e-commerce is rippling across the labor force

A worker removes sale banners inside a closed Sears department store
Reuters/Mike Segar
Endangered species.

In the 1940s, Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter proposed the idea of “creative destruction” to describe the collapse of an established order and the innovation and entrepreneurship that replaced it with something new. That was well before the internet existed, but the idea is an apt framing for the way e-commerce and companies such as Amazon have changed retail.

Under a wave of bankruptcies and store closures, the old world of retail is crumbling, supplanted by one that’s increasingly digital as well as physical. The consequences are more significant than just which company’s quarterly sales are up or who has a hot stock. How we shop is changing, and that’s affecting how we work.

The shift is more pronounced in some countries than others so far, but it’s happening all over.

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