E-commerce sales continue to grow heading into 2017 as some major retailers across the country focus on online traffic over foot traffic in stores.
A company representative told WBIR 10News on Tuesday that American Eagle Outfitters will close its Knoxville Center Mall location toward the end of January to put more of an emphasis toward online shopping.
Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research, said holiday sales for 2016 showed double digit growth in e-commerce, while in-store sales showed essentially no growth.
"You and I want this option. I mean, that's why it's growing so fast," Fox said. "We like shopping online, and we see companies finding new ways to help us take advantage of that."
Fox said this doesn't mean that brick and mortar stores will disappear completely, but rather, that the companies will have to strike a balance between in-store and online sales.
"Best Buy, for example, might become a smaller footprint," he said. "Still a bricks and mortar store but less space use for it."
He said online shopping gives people back time and allows people to compare prices easily, but the disadvantages mean collecting less sales tax and less retail jobs available.
"A real message in all of this is technology costs a lot of jobs," Fox added. "People need to have the skills so they can compete in this new technology world."
River Sports Outfitters is a Knoxville company that is holding on to its in-store customer base with more people shopping locally than online.
"I think a lot of people in the community know that this is the place to come for certain brands and things they want to be outfitted in," said Andy Jones, sales manager for River Sports Outfitters.
Jones said the store had very strong sales throughout the holidays in the store, but the company had to add an online store about 10 years ago to keep up with the growing demand of customer needs.
"We know that's where people are shopping now," Jones said. "Online sales grow every year. I mean, to be a part of that we have got to grow that business just as well as our brick and mortar."
The store's online sales have continued to grow over the years, especially this holiday season with customers placing orders from across the country.
It's a challenge to market both the online and in-store merchandise to customers, Jones said, but the outdoor retailer uses social media and events to draw people to both avenues for purchases.
"You see it every year, you know, you see more and more business go away and become online entities," Jones said. "You think ... what do we need to do to better position ourselves so that doesn't happen to us."
(© 2017 WBIR)