2017 was a bad year for brick-and-mortar retail, with a record 7,795 stores closures across the U.S., according to a study done by UBS. In the wake of the retail apocalypse, eBay decided to partner with Akron, Ohio, to initiate their Retail Revival program.
“We decided Akron was the place to try something really new,” said Devin Wenig, eBay CEO since 2015. The decision was made in part because Ohio businesses did $1 billion in eBay sales last year. The launch of eBay’s Retail Revival program took place on Friday, January 19, when Devin Wenig came to Akron to meet with Mayor Daniel Horrigan.
“Today is a momentous day in the city of Akron in our efforts to promote entrepreneurship and empower our local businesses,” said Horrigan. “This program exists to help small local businesses and the broader community harness the power of technology and participate in the global marketplace. Retail Revival will provide Akron startups and established retailers alike with wraparound support services, training and marketing to expand their businesses through the eBay platform.”
As many as 40 brick-and-mortar businesses are likely to participate inside the new Northside Marketplace off Furnace Street. “When businesses embrace technology and sell globally, they grow,” said Wenig. This program marks an important milestone for many small businesses looking to take their services online.
The partnership between eBay and Akron is set to last for 12 months. Businesses participating in the program will learn expert selling techniques on eBay and will be given complimentary eBay store subscriptions and starter kits.
“We have a humanistic vision of what technology can do. It isn’t about the drones and the robots,” said Wenig, “it’s about people. It’s about small businesses. It’s about using technology to make people competitive and vibrant and to put life into communities, and not take it out.”
It will be interesting to see the fruits of this partnership over the next ten years. If anything, it demonstrates that retailers who want to survive in today’s economy will have to think on their toes to stay relevant and embrace the technological future of brick-and-mortar.