16 October, 2013

Brick and Mortar Vs. Online Retailing...

Brick and Mortar vs. Online Shopping
So... today was maybe the second or third time in the past year that a customer has come in and informed me that they purchased an item in our store, only to discover the same item at a deeply discounted price online. 

To say that this type of encounter is frustrating is a gross understatement. It's an all out assault on our business survival and yet I need to be sympathetic to the customer's point of view. They see the potential to save 30% or (in today's case) upwards of 40% off the retail price paid in our store. In this case it was an unprecedented discount level on a current, name brand item. If I tried to match that price, Hop Sing would have profited less than $9.00.
Impossible!  No legitimate retail business could survive on this profit margin.

So, I plead my case to this valued customer, who held a print-out of the discounted item she'd found online. I explained why I believe these types of online stores exist and how they can offer these ridiculously low prices. Hint: It's not exactly ethical.  While we brick and mortar- with our overhead expenses (rent, insurance, employees, losses etc.) and the necessary price margins that are vital to our business survival, cannot compete! Blah, blah, blah... Is this really a necessary part of the new retailer/customer experience? If you pay a lawyer to represent you, and later see a commercial advertising cheaper legal help, can you request a price match? If you buy a bike at Joe Blow's bike shop for $200, and overstock.com offers the same bike for $100 (because some brickn'mortar liquidated their inventory when "going out of business"), should Joe Blow's meet that price?  Don't exceptional customer services like wrinkle free-showroom merchandising and styling advice, not to mention- the luxury of trying on, touching and feeling the different textures, color matching, brand-mixing for unique one of a kind styling, accessorizing, sizing options, tweaking & perfecting all the elements until you get just-the-right-look and fit... mean anything anymore? What about walking out the door with your new clothing that day?  What about bolstering and supporting your local economy?  How about creating and keeping jobs in your hometown?  Trust me when I tell you that Hop Sing is as "Mom & Pop" as it gets.  Does the investment in inventory and heart on a boutique retailers' part hold any more value than a computer-generated sale, guiding a warehouse man to throw the package into a box with a return label? Can buying fashion be compared to ordering an item at the best price on, say... a book or new crock-pot on Amazon.com? 

If this is the future of shopping- I want off the train. I would never be interested in this vision of retail. I will never be interested in competing with this type of shopping! I'm sorry, but price-matching is not in my vocabulary.  If this deal-searching is what motivates a customer; I respect that. But Hop Sing cannot compete with online liquidators; will not compete... and I make no apologies for it. I work tirelessly to source and curate new collections every season, and provide 20 years of masterful styling experience to my customers at no additional cost.  I do this because I love the women who shop with me, and I'm passionate about styling them beautifully.  Can your online shopping cart do that? 

I hope the future of retail reserves a place for old school mind sets like mine. Perhaps I'll go the way of the dinosaurs... If, or when we come to that place in the road, I will be considering my next occupation.


  1. Great insight! Also, how did the customer prove the authenticity of the online discount? That could literally be a 30 second edit in photoshop.

  2. Truth Jeff! However I didn't feel this particular customer was trying to be dishonest, she was just being thrifty to the point of extreme.


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