It's the end of office-supply shopping as we know it. And you should feel fine.
Office Depot has reportedly agreed to buy OfficeMax to form a super-office-retailing juggernaut that ... well, is still 25 percent smaller than Staples and is probably doomed, anyway.
For those of us on the end of retail beat, like Matt Yglesias and myself, the news might be a surprise but the story's shape is familiar. For the last two decades, Walmart and e-commerce, led by Amazon, have eaten retail with a blend of supply-chain mastery, digital savvy, and ginormous scale.
Long story short: For most of the 20th century, retail work grew in line with the population. Below is a look at retail employment as a share of the labor force since 1950. What you're looking at is the perfect "cyclical" industry. When the economy shrank (gray bars), retail pulled back. When the economy grew (white columns), retail charged ahead. Then something happened in the 1990s ... retail seemed to get a case of the productivity bug. It's not like Americans suddenly decided to stop buying computers and clothes and toilet paper in 2000. We just bought more of those things at labor-saving supercenters like Walmart -- or super-labor-super-savings-supercenters like Amazon.com. Retail became more productive, which means they could sell more with less costs -- those costs being people and stores.