Online Versus Brick-And-Mortar Stores

Glenn Reynolds has a lengthy post about “brick-and-mortar” retailers versus online shopping. There are quite a few reader e-mail comments and not more than a few links.

One of Glenn's biggest suggestions for the brick-and-mortar shops: “I do feel, though, that brick-and-mortar stores ought to be trying harder to make the shopping experience pleasant. Instead, I often get the feeling that the staff views me as a disturbance to their texting-their-friends time.”

I've gotten that same feeling, too.

Around here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire there are lots of shops that cater more to the seasonal visitors and many of the items they sell probably wouldn't do so well online. Sometimes you've got to be visceral about what you're buying. I find they also tend to bend over backwards to serve their customers.

Unfortunately that effort does not extend to many of the chain stores out there. One more than one occasion I've had problems finding anyone in some of these stores with at least a modicum of knowledge about what they sold. Probably the worst examples can be found at some of the big box stores and electronics retailers.

On more than one occasion I have needed help at one of the big box home improvement stores. I won't name them, but I will tell you they like using signs in Spanish...even in areas where French is the second most spoken language behind English. Trying to find someone who knows anything about what I'm looking for, particularly where I can find it, can be frustrating. That's why I rarely go there and frequent one of the locally owned hardware stores instead.

The same is true of both one now defunct electronics chain, Circuit City, and another chain which shall remain nameless. After Circuit City laid off their more experienced sales staff (supposedly as a cost cutting measure), the remaining staff was too inexperienced and not very knowledgeable about the equipment and accessories they sold. It was no wonder they ended up going under. The other chain is still in business, but they're struggling. Only their online sales operation seems to be doing moderately well. Again, it all comes down to their staff and how they treat their customers.

Is it any wonder online retailers are doing so much better than brick-and-mortar stores?