Saturday, December 5, 2009

Location is dead in retail

In the world of retail, location matters not anymore. At least not in the traditional sense of shopping malls and home maker centres. Westfield, Stockland, and Harvey Norman - please take note. It's more about logistics, and proximity to major shipping routes for fast delivery.

No longer do you need a physical presence. Retailers can still offer great service, and better choice online. Even the barrier of being able to try something on in store has been addressed through better managed return policies, and Ezibuy and Zappos are a great testament to this mantra.

People are also preferring shopping in their own home rather than going out. Appalling parking, pushy crowds, annoying shop assistants, and the "I'm better than you" or "Are you really going to buy anything in my elite store" snobbery that can occur in the physical retail spaces can be easily avoided. How? By a nice online store offering everything you were after and more.

Better bargains can now always be found online. Better products can now be found online, through public voting review systems or star ratings, or quality "choice" reviews. Why buy a 1 star rated product when a 5 star rated product is obviously better? But where are the star ratings in a bricks and mortar store? I wont buy a book anymore from Borders or Angus and Robertson unless it has a good Amazon rating. I also just got a Kindle, which lets me buy highly rated books almost instantly.

Often, a bricks and mortar store now only serves the purpose of a "hold in the hand" evaluation, which can be further researched and bought elsewhere online. I just bought $1400 worth of baby gear (cot, pram, car seat, etc) online after checking out reviews and a couple of inspections. I saved $600 off the in store price, for the same products.

There's also the obvious benefit of convenience. Need to get a present for a birthday, for someone living far away? Choose the gift wrapping option and get it sent direct. No more worrying about buying wrapping paper, sticky tape, cards, ribbon and going to the post office. It's all done for you, and you can be back to doing your own thing in no time.

Store owners should be seriously asking themselves, why pay rent? A good online store can now be a much cheaper and more intelligent investment.