Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekend Shopping and the Challenges of Brick and Mortar

We were out and about this weekend with a couple of trips to the mall. It was an interesting reminder about how some stores still wrestle with brick and mortar versus online.

It may be because it's been a while since we'd been there, but the Sony store has a new home and a new style -- more like the Apple store. It seems targeted more around the showrooming experience now, which seems appropriate. We didn't go in, but from the outside it looked better.

I'd been looking for something online at Williams Sonoma, but I thought it would be worth checking the store to see if they matched the same price and 'gift' offer as online. While their web site says that they can't always do that, I was pleased to see them do that for the product that I was looking for. Unfortunately, they didn't have it in stock and checking their inventory system showed some IS/POS system problems. Fortunately for us, we live in an area with multiple Williams Sonoma locations, so we were able to buy the item at another store (which also had problems with their POS system), but I was equally surprised that the first store didn't offer to check stock in nearby locations. And, for all of you retail people out there, don't ask me if I'd like to order it online when I just came in and asked if your retail offer matched your online one.

I was also doing some book shopping over the weekend. Amazon didn't have stock. I thought, what the heck, I'll check Barnes and Noble. Sure enough, they had stock and a better price. Oh, and the offer in store pickup. Having been burned by their pricing approach in the past, I was curious if they'd updated their pricing to support online match in-store. I called. Nope. That might not be a big deal when you're talking about a paperback or a $20 book, but when you start getting up over $100 and a $50 price delta, it's over. Their brick and mortar just lost the sale -- for the B&M and the online business.

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