Sunday, January 26, 2014

Give Me A Reason!!!

Is it time to say goodbye?
This past holiday season, I did it early in the morning. Sometimes just wearing pajamas. Sometimes less. Usually around 5 a.m., (no alarm) I would roll out of bed, hit the bathroom, stumble down the hall to the kitchen, start the coffeemaker and then go shopping…in my dining room.  With a lift of my laptop lid I could open the doors to Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy’s and more. Not quite the Miracle on 34th Street, but everything those stores offered at my fingertips. I had my list and checked it twice. A click of a few keys and...done!

And here’s the best part of online shopping. No sore shoulders from carrying bags through the mall. No standing in long lines. No cruising for a parking spot isle after isle. Nope. Just push a few buttons, and in a few short days, they’ll be a soft knock on the door and brown paper packages tied up in string were on the porch. 

Really? Be part of this?
And here’s the worst part. I’m not alone; millions upon millions of people were doing the very same thing. And online shopping is beginning to take its toll on what the industry calls the “brick and mortar” stores. This was all brought to my attention the other day (online) by reading the following excerpt; "At one point [the indoor mall] may have met the developer's needs—and even for a while, the consumer's needs—but it has outlived its usefulness," Rick Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, said in a keynote address recently at the National Retail Federation's annual convention in New York. Caruso then went on to state; and without a complete reinvention, they will be extinct within 10 to 15 years.” What? Pajama shoppers don't want that!

Give me a reason!
Let’s go back to black Friday. Tell my why after cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people, cleaning up, taking everything back out for late night Turkey sandwiches, cleaning up, and finally going to bed at 11:00 p.m.,  I should get up four hours later and stand out in the freezing cold just to get a good deal! This year, most "blow-out" black Friday deals were also available online…at the same times.

On my Christmas list to purchase this year was a Kitchen Aid blender for my son and his girl. Target offered it at $100 off regular price at 5:00 a.m. on black Friday. Now, as most of you who cook know, this is a very heavy blender. Just lifting it from the cart and into the car was more than I wanted to think about. So, while some people stood outside in line huddled under blankets, I got up at 4:45, fixed a steaming cup of hot coffee, stretched, scratched, emptied the dishwasher, lit the fireplace, sat down and bought it! Free delivery was included. Why would I not do that?

Is it hurting the brick and mortar stores? It has to be. “Physical stores need to focus on delivering an experience that customers cannot find on the Web”, Caruso said. “What's more, physical stores cannot only consider themselves to be in the retail industry, but need to embrace the hospitality industry as well.” Let’s explain this to the young man who waited on me in a famous chain store while wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. When I suggested it wasn’t a good look behind the register, he suggested I get in another line. My dining room is much friendlier.
Give me a reason!
I don’t always shop online. And I do enjoy strolling through the mall with a friend, stopping to have lunch. Maybe even doing a little impulse buying.  But when shopping is my main focus, my mission, such as it is at Christmastime, why would I fight the crowds, the weather, and the traffic when I can get everything I want, at the same price, delivered to my door?

I’ll even admit it worries me. I don’t want to see empty buildings complete with tumbleweeds. Just give me a reason to leave the warmth and security of my home to shop. Maybe Mr. Caruso is right. It's time for shopping centers to reinvent themselves.  It just may have to start with better customer service. Better pay for those who provide it. Maybe mature, experienced sales clerks could coax me back in into the stores. Maybe, just maybe, someone who said "Thanks for shopping here" and meant it, would make me want to save their jobs. That you can't find on the internet.

Even my local grocery store offers complete online shopping stocked with virtual isles where you select your items and employees gather them up and deliver the complete order to your house. I haven't gone there yet, but judging by the amount of employees dressed in the black "shop at home" Tee shirts, a lot of people have. 

Laptop shopping is just too easy not to do and it has put us all at retail crossroads. I don't have any answers so I will leave it to the Rick Caruso's of the world to figure it all out.  But right now, I'm doing most of my shopping online and all I can say is give me a reason not to!

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