When Everyone’s Looking For a Side Hustle, Where Are the Retail Buyers?

Larry Christopher
6 min readAug 3

Old Joke:

Q: Why did God create WASPs?
A: Someone has to buy retail!

If so, WASPs (this rather dated term means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) may be an endangered species. If, like so many people today, you are trying to sell anything, you may have noticed the shortage of old-fashioned retail customers.

The most obvious evidence of this has been the closing down of so many retail chains in recent years (who, in their turn, contributed to the demise of so many Main Street/High Street shops). The decline of retail has been a long and ongoing story over the last 20 or so years and one that shows no signs of slowing down. Even Amazon, the very symbol of modern e-commerce, at least in the West, is struggling, having lost $2.7 billion in 2022.

Some of this can be attributed to financial hardship. As prices rise and many consumers struggle to meet basic needs, discretionary spending goes down. However, it’s also partly a mindset. People increasingly believe, whether rightly or not, that it’s possible to get almost anything at a “deep discount.” So why should they pay retail?

Then there’s the issue that everyone (or so it seems) is looking to start their own business or “side hustle.” The popularity of business models such as e-commerce, retail arbitrage, “flipping” merchandise, and “picking” mean that many people are buying items with the hope of reselling them.

When Everyone’s a Picker

The term “picker” is probably best known from the History Channel reality show, American Pickers, about two guys named Mike and Frank who drive around the country looking for antiques to resell. The show didn’t invent the term but they popularized it back in 2010. These two affable guys drive all over the country, often stopping in picturesque small towns and barns seeking old tools, advertising, or anything collectible. They usually engage in some friendly negotiating and leave with a truckful of treasures to sell at their antique store.

Pickers have long been part of the antiques and flea market scene. However, in the real world, it’s usually done on a much more basic and often cutthroat manner than the TV…