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With the announcement of the struggling Barnes and Noble's (NYSE:BKS) intent to offload its Nook product line because it simply couldn't compete with the much larger online retailer Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and its Kindle products, Netflix almost single-handedly putting Blockbuster Video completely out of business, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) putting the screws to Research in Motion (RIMM) and many other names in the mobile device and handset markets, the recent performance and guidance of department stores like Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) and JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) and, lastly, general merchandise stores like Target (NYSE:TGT) trading near 52 week lows, one can't help but wonder:

Is the virtual realm really going reduce brick and mortars, as we once knew them, to rubble and ash?

If you look closely, the process began a few years ago, but there seems to have been a rapid acceleration over the last year or so. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Netflix seem hyper-focused on destroying any and all that stands between their respective market-segment dominance.

Barnes and Noble v. Amazon 12 Month Trailing Income Data

Revenue

7.01B

Revenue

43.59B

Revenue Per Share

122.81

Revenue Per Share

96.55

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

-0.60%

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

43.90%

Gross Profit

1.79B

Gross Profit

7.64B

EBITDA

183.13M

EBITDA

1.75B

Net Income Avl to Common

-65.38M

Net Income Avl to Common

870.00M

Diluted EPS

-1.14

Diluted EPS

1.90

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

N/A

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

-72.70%

Amazon is clearly sacrificing near-term earnings growth for the long-term purposes of bringing its competition to its knees. Even though I've never visited a physical Amazon store, my Barnes and Noble down the street never really stood a chance.

Research in Motion v. Apple 12 Month Trailing Income Data

Revenue

19.80B

Revenue

108.25B

Revenue Per Share

37.81

Revenue Per Share

117.12

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

-5.90%

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

39.00%

Gross Profit

8.82B

Gross Profit

43.82B

EBITDA

4.45B

EBITDA

35.57B

Net Income Avl to Common

2.22B

Net Income Avl to Common

25.92B

Diluted EPS

4.25

Diluted EPS

27.68

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

-70.90%

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

53.70%

The most recent quarterly earnings growth pretty much sums it all up. RIM was simply another victim of Apple's carnivorous ways. While RIM had no true brick and mortars, per se, its technology has lined the shelves of many retail mobile device shops that don't carry/sell the iPhone or the iPad, most of which have suffered along with RIM.

Blockbuster v. Netflix 12 Month Trailing Income Data

Revenue

Revenue

2.92B

Revenue Per Share

Revenue Per Share

55.61

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

48.60%

Gross Profit

Gross Profit

805.27M

EBITDA

EBITDA

433.82M

Net Income Avl to Common

Net Income Avl to Common

238.00M

Diluted EPS

Diluted EPS

4.40

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

64.50%

The Blockbuster table is intentionally devoid of data and about as empty as most of the company's brick and mortar locations, as the company's remaining assets were recently bought on the cheap at auction after a bankruptcy filing. Netflix and a handful of online video streamers and mail-order video companies saw to that. Meanwhile, Netflix keeps on trucking. Though its potential for growth was seemingly slowed by its own missteps in the second half of 2012, at least it still exists to have growth potential. I've never been to a Netflix store, again, because they don't exist and don't need to.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to compare the two big general merchandise companies, Target and Wal-Mart, as they both seem to be capable of withstanding the onslaught of online retailers.

Target v. Walmart 12 Month Trailing Income Data

Revenue

69.24B

Revenue

440.14B

Revenue Per Share

100.54

Revenue Per Share

126.05

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

5.10%

Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy)

8.10%

Gross Profit

21.66B

Gross Profit

106.56B

EBITDA

7.51B

EBITDA

34.23B

Net Income Avl to Common

2.98B

Net Income Avl to Common

15.59B

Diluted EPS

4.30

Diluted EPS

4.72

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

3.70%

Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy)

-2.90%

This is an interesting comparison, as shares of Target are down about 17% since 01/05/11, while shares of Wal-Mart are up about 9% over the same time period, despite their many similarities. Looks like investors are banking on the larger and more cost effective (for shoppers) Wal-Mart to maintain its competitive edge for some time to come.

JC Penney, Sears, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and a handful of other long-time mid-end department store staples are suffering and lowering guidance, in part, due to the ever-growing online shopping community, while high-end department stores like Macy's are reporting good numbers and guiding upwards.

While I don't suspect Mall of America to fall anytime soon, the trend is clear, and it doesn't appear to bode well for the brick and mortars that are left standing. They will be around for years to come, but you can expect the empty storefronts left by the Blockbuster Videos out there to be filled with Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), McDonalds (NYSE:MCD), or Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) customers in no time at all.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL, MCD, SBUX.

Source: Will Amazon, Apple And Netflix Eventually Destroy All Brick And Mortars?