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English: Four retailers, Newport Road, Cardiff...

English: Four retailers, Newport Road, Cardiff Located on the west side of Newport Road, close to the Colchester Avenue junction are Topps Tiles (their banner states “Britain’s biggest tile and wood flooring specialist” Halfords Currys PC World. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like looking round a real-world shop and if I can get something I want from somewhere that I can look at it first then I’ll often be happy to pay a few quid more for it – as well as being able to get that instant gratification feeling of having a new shiny thing straight away.  Sometimes you find something you didn’t know you wanted.  Some things we can buy based on a picture and a specification, somethings are more subjective, they need to be inspected closely, handled to see if they will fit into our life, or indeed hand – as in the case of my recent mobile phone.

The trouble is that so often that thing you see in front of you is cheaper online, and maybe it is worth waiting a few days to save money, so you go home and order it instead – I’ve heard of people using apps on their smartphones to order things while they’re still in the shop even.  I admit I did this when I bought my current phone but only because I had built up a small cash-back to use if I bought it online direct from the network.

Understandably high street retailers are not happy about this and it has even been cited as contributing to the failure of some big-name stores recently – added costs of bricks-and-mortar stores being named specifically as the reason they can’t match online prices.  Yes people need to save money these days but if we abandon local shops altogether our town centres are going to be awfully quiet.

To fight back some retailers let you buy online for collection in store, getting a web-exclusive price into the bargain, Currys PC World for example, which will tempt some away from Amazon et al with the carrot of convenience while some remaining retailers are either trying to match online prices to gain volume sales instead or emphasising the added-value of personal service, which is certainly a benefit to specialist retailers like camera stores where knowledgable staff are invaluable.  Choice, availability, service and a reasonable price are what high-street stores need to emphasise.

One specialist food store in Australia though has taken the same route as supermarkets have done with parking, to discourage people who visit but not buy anything (and then go online) they charge $5 entry which is refunded when you buy something.  Which is quite a carrot, appropriately enough.

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