Friday, January 19, 2007
Amish Long Tail
The Amish lifestyle has survived many things, most especially the digital age. Prior to the growth of Walmart and other aggregate distributors of manufactured and farm goods, Amish communities benefited from the prevalence of 'specialty stores,'those small storefronts that came to be known as 'niche' stores.
With the huge growth of the indoor shopping malls as a replacement for main street, these small specialty retailers couldn't compete with the pricing in these places, even if their extraordinary quality and special customer service out performed by a mile.
The Amish crafting people suffered from this rise in indoor malls as did the downtowns of many many cities across the countries. One 'big box' retailer, Art Van, did infuse cash, work and jobs into the Amish community by purchasing their furnishings. Even Art Van has not survived the new influx of Chinese copies, made with cheap illegal wood. Times have not been easy.
Things have changed again, where the Amish lifestyle may be peculiarly positioned this time. The Long Tail, described as the 'end of the blockbuster' is a unique phenomenon to the internet. Customers have discovered that by using the internet, they no longer have to settle for junk furniture, bad clothing, chintzy shoes. They can buy what they want, from wherever it happens to be in the world.
Big box retailers can't create enough space and convenience to carry everything available in the world. Finally, they are beginning to suffer from the small niche retailers, a more demanding customer that finally wants value for their money.
The simple lifestyle of the Amish have enabled them to survive long enough that they may benefit from this change. Internet options have enabled Amish products to be specifically highlighted on the internet, found by interested customers, and sold in an easy and convenient manner.
Traditional workshops can spring to life once again, invigorating Amish communities, reviving lost craftsmanship, and by their willingness to work with their 'English' neighbors and friends, we may experience a bottom-up revival of the work ethic that made America great.