Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why do stores exist?

I mean you can get everything online. In fact, I'll make a blanket statement that you can get everything cheaper online. (Exceptions proving the rule.)

And they'll deliver it right to your door!

It's an agoraphobic's heaven -- you never, ever have to leave the house.

Sure, there are some restrictions -- buying in sufficient quantities, waiting for it to show up. But, those are manageable -- with the money you save, you can buy more, and you just have to plan ahead.

So why do stores exist?

Is it possible that people still want, oh, I don't know, a human connection? A real person to interact with? That whether they admit it or not, most people want more than just a cheaper price?

Or is it just, the job ain't done yet. Someday everyone will get their stuff online. Never have to leave your holodeck -- just plug in the feeding tube?


Andy Z said...

I suppose the human connection is important. And "shopping" is a great way to learn about new products.

But mostly brick-and-mortars provide immediate gratification, which the web can't yet do, at least not with ink-on-paper products. I usually know that the only copy of The Thing That I'm After that's within a hundred miles is probably at Pegasus.

dkgoodman said...

I buy locally if I need it fresh, or *right now!*, or it's too bulky to ship inexpensively, or can't be found online, or it's somehow cheaper locally, or I want to see it or try it before I buy it. I buy online if it's cheaper, I don't need it right away, I'm not worried about the quality, or I can't find it locally. Or I buy it locally because I wasn't looking for it, I just happened across it.

If I see something interesting in SkyMall or another print catalog, I'll snap a photo and then search for it on eBay when I get a chance.

Jack Elliott said...

"Why do stores exist?" -- that's a great question, Dunc.

I suppose it's partly because we have been habituated to go to stores to buy things; and partly because some of us enjoy browsing through attractively-packaged items, looking and considering whether they suit our desires or needs, getting advice, holding the sought-after thing in our hands to see whether it's as nice as we hoped, and, for me, to simply be surrounded by cool or interesting stuff.

Your store is an example of a shop that has cool and interesting stuff.

I long for more stores which stock the unusual, the rare, the not expensive but fascinating, hidden gems, overlooked mysteries.

When I was a kid, I loved poking through electronics surplus stores and hobby shops -- stores that sold (to me) interesting shit.

Townshend's Tea also sell fun (to me) stuff. I enjoy picking up and considering the various tea-brewing accessories there.

You can't do that online.

Stores, give us a physical connection to the product and this can help us see how well an item fits with our desires and requirements.

Sometimes, by the act of touching something we were considering, we discover that it does not suit, a and this is valuable and cannot be learned by looking at a photo on an LCD screen, which enables us to better choose between competing products, or even to find that while something seemed like a good idea, it's not as swell as we thought in real life.

That's not to say that online shopping does not have its uses. Notably for me, it fills in the gaps that even the most diligent shopkeeper can't anticipate. Here's one: we've learned that the spa that came with our house is too deep for Mrs Elliott and me (we are both shorter than average, as you know, having met us both) and we wanted to get two spa "booster seats" such as we found advertised online at amazon.com. Wanting to keep as much money in our town as possible, I first checked with Emerald Hearth, Spa, and Pool up on Hwy 20 near Empire but they don't stock the things. I would have appreciated someone in sales (who isn't trying to get rid of crap that isn't moving) offer advice, but I have to buy the items online.

Also (though this probably doesn't matter a whole lot for the Pegasus's clientele, which I reckon is 90% male, correct me if I am wrong) the laydees do love to shop. Mrs Elliott likes to see, touch, and pick up pretty, glittery things.

So I'd say that stores give us the opportunity to browse products, preview them, and by holding an item, form a bond with it.

It's silly, really, but I think that's how many of us are.

I like that you're here, that you have this quirky shop selling a fascinating niche product. My ideal town would be filled with shops selling surprising niche products. A shopkeeper's paradise would be a town populated with customers interested in fascinating niche products.

BTW -- we both love Libby's Garden and would like to emulate it at our house. If you know anyone who knows the plants there, drop me a line. You have my email address. Operators are standing by.