Friday, August 14, 2015

Retail isn't being forced out of business, it's committing suicide.

My home cordless answering machine broke last week.  Yes, I know that wanting to replace it makes me a dinosaur, but I work from home, and call quality on smart phones still leaves much to be desired. 

The last time I bought one it was fairly simple.  I went to J&R, they had about a dozen to choose from, I picked one, paid and walked out of the store with it.  End of story.  Of course J&R is no longer in business.  So I looked online and it appeared that Staples carries them.  Lots of them.  At least 50 different kinds.  (I got tired of reloading at that point.)  So, I figured that I would head to a store and pick one up.

I arrived at a huge store to find three people just waiting to help me, and no other shoppers.  When I told them what I wanted, their response was "We can order it for you."  What?  After some more questions they admitted that they had none in the store. 

Since I live in Manhattan, I thought I'd try a different store the next day.  This one had about six models in a locked case.  When a person asked if they could help me, I pointed to the simple one and asked if it had an answering machine.  He said "No," I responded in kind and left the store.

Now, I will need to go through all those options online and pick one.  Something that will take me more time than picking one up in a store did.  And I have found that I make more mistakes when I buy online which forces me to have more do-overs, something I really hate.

So what's the solution?  Stores that only display samples so that people can see them, feel them, touch them, and ask questions about them.  Once the selection is made the customer orders online and the item is shipped directly to them.  In other words, if people are show rooming, then make it work for you! 

Blue Nile and Bonobos are pioneering the new approach and proving that it works.  Macy's is giving it a try -- just in the nick of time apparently, as they just announced flat earnings projections for the year. (Kapner, 2015)

Staples are you listening?  I still need a new answering machine.

Kapner, S. (2015, August 12)  Web Retailers Teach In-Store Tricks.  Wall Street Journal.  pB1

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