Why retail is dying … for me, anyways…

Last night I went and did something that for quite a while I’ve lambasted other people for doing – I looked at a bunch of books at my local Barnes & Noble, then after realizing how much cheaper I could order them from Amazon, I put them back and ordered them online instead.

They’ll be here Friday because I signed up for a free Amazon Prime trial with 2-day shipping, and waiting those extra two days is saving me 31% on what would’ve been a $95 sale for B&N.

Again, for a while I really looked down at people who did exactly this because I don’t think that it’s fair to the retailer for someone to checkout a product in their showroom and then turn around and order it someplace else that’s cheaper. To walk into a Best Buy and pick out the perfect TV there in person, only afterwards to order it online for 25% less seems to ignore the fact that if Best Buy doesn’t sell enough TVs themselves, they won’t be around to provide that showroom in the first place.

And yet I really had no problem whatsoever when it came to that stack of 5 books that my wife and I picked out last night … I think partially because I’m familiar with the terms that retail bookstores offer and how absolutely dreadful they are anyways – it’s hard to feel sorry for a store when you know that there’s very little risk associated with them carrying stock because they reserve the right to return whatever it is that they can’t sell. When you factor in the average cost of 40% off retail and consider that they’re still expecting to sell at the full retail price, it’s no surprise that many of us balk at seeing a book listed at $19.99 that can be bought elsewhere for nearly half the cost!  😯

Sure, they’ve got some extra costs associated with having a physical presence … but at what point do they also have to consider that they’re in a losing battle with online sales and that maybe a few things are going to have to change if they don’t want to go the way of Borders and so many other retail bookstores in years past? A discounted sale as long as it still makes profit is better than no sale at all, so what else could’ve they done to have me walk out those doors with a receipt in my hand instead of leaving empty-handed with an intent to go home and order the very same books from Amazon a few hours later???

For me, I think simply offering some kind of discount would’ve been a big help. I used to shop at Borders a lot more when they were still around and I’m not sure if you could even find a book on their shelves that sold for retail price. And yeah, chuckle if you’d like about that being the reason that they went out of business … I choose to believe that it was a little more complex than that … but when I look at books on Barnes & Noble’s shelves, it feels like they’re not even trying if the retail prices is printed there on the book and that’s it.

Places like Amazon and even Walmart have taught us that only a sucker pays retail anymore, so to see my purchases ring up at the full price makes me feel like the seller doesn’t care about being competitive.

So they’ve got the physical presence for when you just absolutely have to have a book right now … and I’m sure for a percentage of their customers, that’s fine, but for me if I’m stuck buying a gift for somebody at the last minute and it costs me an arm and a leg, that’s just going to be all the more incentive next time to remember to pull up Amazon a week earlier so that I can get my order in and save 30% off the cost of my order.

When you’re talking enough savings that often times it can mean an extra thing or two of what you’re ordering, that’s significant in my book!

There’s a part of me that wishes retail stores weren’t dying in my heart – there really is. I also walked through a Toys ‘R Us last night, which is super nostalgic for me because before Walmart popped up, probably 90% of my toys came from that store … and that’s fine when you’re not the one paying for it all, but I guess when you grow up and have to balance a budget yourself, you realize that it’s just stupid to buy from someplace that’s more expensive simply because that’s how you’ve always remembered doing it in the past. If I can get half again as many Legos or books or an even more ridiculously bigger TV by shopping online, then I’d be a fool not to.

It’s time that retail woke up and figured out how to leverage the Internet in their favor instead of plugging their fingers in their ears and pretending that it doesn’t exist while it continues to swallow up their neighbors one by one.

I think we still need retail and there will always be a place for them in the marketplace, but in the years to come, the ones that really thrive will be those who can figure out how to make people want to shop with them online and in person, and how to make that a seamless experience.

Case in point – just for my own amusement, I priced out that same order of 5 books on Barnes & Noble’s website:

  • Amazon Price: $65.63
  • B&N.com Price: $69.06

I still ordered from Amazon because they’re my go-to at this point … but what if Barnes & Noble had offered me a 25% discount on the spot in the store to have them shipped to me in a couple of days just like Amazon could???   😮

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