So a while ago, someone I know bought some new running shoes. He went and tried them on in our local specialist running shop, which is staffed by people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to running kit. The advisors there are pretty good – they will usually get customers to try on runners and run up and down the street outside so their gait can be observed, and they’ll happily do this several times until the best shoes have been identified.
I don’t know how complex the fitting process was in this case. What I do know is that once this person had figured out which runners they wanted, and tried them on, they left the shop and bought them online, thus saving £30.
When I called them out on this, the response was along the lines of ‘I’m all for local shops but I don’t have £30 to support them I am afraid’. Support? SUPPORT? Like independent shops are some sort of charity case, surviving on handouts from those kind and generous folk, and who should be humbly grateful for being tossed a bone every now and again?
And breathe. Right. I’m sure I’ve covered this before on the blog, but in case you weren’t paying attention, let’s have a quick rehash…Online stores are often (but not always) cheaper. Sometimes a lot cheaper. Why can’t local shops offer the same prices? Well, it comes down mostly to rent costs and wage costs.
There is a big difference between renting a depot on an industrial estate and renting a city centre store. ‘Not my problem, is it?’ I hear you say. Uh, no, it’s not. Unless you want to try on your shoes before you buy them of course. In that case you’ll need to go to a shop on the high street. A shop that will have significantly higher rent costs, and therefore needs to charge higher prices.
And the staffing difference? It’s like this. If each customer takes 20 minutes trying on shoes, that means that in a 9-5 shop day, one staff member can sell 24 pairs of shoes. Now I’m guessing that in a warehouse situation, one person can pick and pack 24 pairs of shoes in not much more than an hour. So wage costs eat a much larger proportion of your profit on each pair of shoes. Once again it’s not your problem, is it? Once again, no, it’s not. Unless you want advice and fitting of course, in which case – oh yeah, the high street again.
Of course cost is an issue for all of us these days. We all need to cut our cloth accordingly. But by saying ‘I can’t afford the advice and service that comes with your shop, so I’ll just take the advice and service for free, thank you very much’ – well, that’s not cutting YOUR cloth, that’s rather arrogantly cutting someone else’s, surely?
I’m not saying don’t buy online. That would be a ridiculous (and hypocritical) plea.
I’m saying don’t take the piss out of local businesses by taking up their time, effort and money in providing you with a service, and then walk out and buy online. It’s basically freeloading.