Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Death of a bookstore

Will this be a common sight in years to come? This is what currently remains of a well-known large bookstore at a local shopping centre. Bigger than most libraries, this bookstore used to boast an extreme range of books, but certainly not at the lowest prices. And this is only one reason why online shopping has trumped the local store.

As we increasingly embrace the digital age and online shopping becomes easier and more efficient, many of us are turning away from physical stores and using internet shopping more and more. But why has the occasional purchase on eBay or Amazon turned into a phenomenon that impacts physical stores enough to close their doors? I can think of a few reasons:

1. Competitive prices
A recent retail report by The Australian Institute has shown that, despite the rising Australian dollar against the US dollar, "the average mark-up for items such as clothes and shoes is 142%, and around 40% for items like DVDs and music". Indeed! One only has to look online for a few minutes to see the difference in prices for identical products here and overseas. I recently purchased a top-brand snow jacket from America for AU$200. If I went to the local snow gear store I would be paying AU$650. Thankyou ADSL2+ broadband, you have just paid for yourself.

2. General lack of service at physical stores 
Ever walked into a shop wanting help only to see staff walking around like they're off with the Min Mins? I have. A lot of people argue against online shopping by saying that you can't beat face-to-face service. Actually, turns out you can Gerry Harvey, because most of time you get a blank face look when you ask "Does this product come in red?". Most good online shops have much more detail about the product you are about to buy. Sizes, colours, features, etc. A recent trip to a well-known outdoor recreation store saw me bear witness to a saleswoman telling a customer that she "couldn't try on a medium in that $700 jacket if they didn't have one out of the box as a sample" . . .

3. Reliable shipping/delivery
I'm not sure about others, but I have never had any trouble with receiving products bought online. I once had to order an extra matching pillowcase for a bed setting from a local manchester shop. I was told it would take two weeks to have it sent from regional NSW (I live in coastal NSW), only to be told three weeks later that they had to source it from a store that's a 20 minute drive away. I've ordered books from England that arrived sooner and without a fuss in under two weeks. And in Australia it seems that most of the time shipping plus the price of the item is still cheaper than the in-store price.

4. Shopping in the comfort of your dressing gown and bed socks
During this sudden cold-snap, is there anything better than curling up on the lounge in your fluffy comfy clothes and dabbling in a bit shopping? No need to worry about screaming children in the shopping centre or little old ladies running over your foot with their motorised wheelchair (it has happened). As an added moral bonus it's environmentally friendly too, as you're saving all those petrol emissions from escaping from your car. Never mind, they'll be released tomorrow when you go to work.

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