'Tis the season to be shopping, or so it seems. It's not unusual, in the run-up to the holidays, for thoughts to turn to the acquisition of stuff. But this year, given the dire economic pronouncements, shopping has taken on the heft of a patriotic act. Can we really buy our way out of the mess that the unwise use of credit has gotten us into? Only time will tell - a long, long time, I'm afraid.
Though we are not talking about holiday shopping per se, it does seem to be an appropriate time for Isthmus to cast a glance at the burgeoning trend of online buying and selling. "New World Orders," our investigation into e-commerce as practiced in Madison, is this week's cover story, written by contributor Mary Ellen Bell.
Online commerce is nothing new; it's been around for well over a decade, about as long as the web itself. But its growth has been of the snowball model, growing exponentially with each turn of the cycle. For 2008, online shopping is projected to hit $204 billion, a 17% increase over the previous year. The trend has shaken the traditional retail model and increased the challenge of the bricks-and-mortar store to make the necessary revenue per square foot.
The spark of inspiration for our story came from a meeting this summer with the daughter of a good friend from my long-ago Africa days, Godwin Amegashie. Chiome Amegashie had relocated to Madison and was already the proud proprietor of an online business,