Above is a graph illustrating the much blogged about long tail. It starts steep on the left side, continues through burnination and tapers off after a while to a little point.
I was talking with an acquaintance the other day and he was was telling me of a box business he was helping to start. Their business catered to small businesses and individuals who needed small amounts of custom sized corrugated cardboard (boxes). One of their clients was a bowling ball manufacturer. Large box companies wouldn't give anyone who ordered such small quantities of boxes the time of day, yet this man was convinced their company could satisfy the needs of many companies ordering odd size boxes and be profitable.
Later my mom was lamenting how difficult it was to order womens pants with long legs. I feel for her. It is very hard for me to find pants with a 36 inch inseam and a waist smaller than 34. So again we come back to the long tail. There exists people with needs that are not met by the majority. Who will supply these needs? Yes, I could order pants online, yet I'd much rather try them on before purchasing to know if they fit or not.
So can brick and mortar stores participate in this long tail phenomenon or will they get burninated along the way? Really, I'd like to know....