3D Printing’s Effect on Retail

By on February 14th, 2013 in Ideas


We’ve been reading Dalton Caldwell’s take on entrepreneur Marc Andreessen’s position that physical retail stores are in a bad position as they have to pay for not only inventory but also real estate, whereas online retail does not. Caldwell, who’s currently the CEO of app.net, believes that 3D printing could eventually affect physical retail as even a small decline in revenue could cause major financial problems. 
The proposition is that consumers could 3D print some items at home via web retail and thus cut into the revenue streams of physical stores. 
We agree that this could happen, but there’s many dependencies. 
Only a portion of products could be successfully 3D printed due to constraints of materials, size and other characteristics. But there’s one thing that’s even more important: money. 
If any purchasable item costs a great deal of money, then it’s very likely you’d want to check it out before purchasing it. That’s why we still have car dealers: test drive before you buy. The same will be true with printable objects: if the price is very high, you’d want a way to check first before committing your money.  
Some form of physical retail presence is probably necessary for such products. Even a reduction in the cost of quality 3D printing, which today is likely too high for many objects, would not overcome the need for physical retail, because the object creator may charge a high price for the right to print their product. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!