Where has all the money gone?

Big corporations see shrinking profits as new technology destroys traditional revenue streams

It’s a different kind of Black Friday; one where instead of firms going from losses ‘into the black’, their mood is very black, and there’s no sunshine on the horizon. The writing is on the wall, the corporate joy-ride has come to an end.

How could this happen? For more than 40 years, we’ve seen a never-ending boom in technologically driven market success, brand loyalty, and corporate profits. The birth of the internet, online sales and marketing, and the unparalleled triumph of annual events like Cyber Monday, Singles Day, and all the other mega sales blowouts, made it look like the party was never going to end.

Like going bankrupt, it happened gradually, then suddenly. Gradually, more and more money was being ‘taken out of the system’, as middlemen were disintermediated, and consumers went direct to the source. Who needs a travel agent or a used car dealer, when you can buy all that you need online? Who needs an electrician or a broker, when solar powered lights and investment funds are right there, on your phone?

For a while, the tech and internet giants made a killing, as the default point of purchase shifted from convenience and location to connected and customized. It was easier to let Google or Alexa find the stuff you needed; most of the time, you didn’t need to search – they prompted you to buy!

Then suddenly, things were different. People stopped buying cars, TV screens and phones. Even ‘cheap’ Chinese goods last a lifetime, and how many pairs of high-end sneakers can you actually wear? Luxury brands that thrived in the 2020s saw volumes and prices fall off a cliff. The idea of constant upgrades seems quaintly obsolete, and if you do need a replacement for a broken or lost item, it’s easy enough to order it from your local 3D print shop.

The age of mass manufacturing by industrial corporations is over, and assembly line robots have whirred to a standstill. Small and agile is the new style of commerce, and now consumers value personal experiences more than branded goods.

That’s where the money’s gone.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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