My friend is an expert in commercial real estate, and at one point, we ended up discussing what it takes to get people like me to go to physical stores. Apparently, relatively wealthy mothers like myself are a much sought-after demographic. I laughed and said that I spent much more time in stores back in my single days, but she pointed out that one of the things we did with my kid-and-husband free time was run an errand at Target. Fair point. We'd gone to Target because I needed to get things for Petunia's upcoming birthday party and a gift for one of her friends' birthdays. I could probably have found the party plates and favors online, but I like to get kids' gifts at a physical store, for the ease of returns. I don't know what the other kid likes, already has, etc., etc., and I don't want to hand some other family the chore of packaging up my gift and shipping it back to Amazon.
And that started us talking about what it takes to get someone like me into a physical store. Here is my list of things I prefer to buy at a physical store, along with my reasons:
- Gifts for other people's kids (so that they can have easy returns)
- Clothes for me (so that I can try them on)
- Shoes for me (same thing)
- Groceries (no idea why- I guess because of the delivery timing problem
- Technical books (I like to scan through these before I buy- but with the advent of things like StackOverflow and other online tech resources, and with my transition into management, I buy very few tech books these days.)
- Furniture (so I can see it and examine the quality)
My friend and I talked some more about my idea clothing store, too. I would love to find a store that stocked an invariant core of staple clothing (I guess the industry calls these "classics"), and just had a varying range of fashionable things around that core. I hate how hard it is to find a shirt that fits right, and that even if a shirt from one store fit one year, I can't count on it having the same cut the next year. And don't get me started about finding pants that fit!
After thinking some more, I thought that a store that had some clothes for me, some clothes for my kids, and a train table and a bunch of books to distract my kids while I shopped would get a lot of return business from me, particularly if they also had the core staples I want. I could see going in to pick up a new pair of black pants, for instance, and letting the kids play for a short time while I browsed through the fashionable tops. Somehow, I never have enough tops. I'd probably end up buying whatever the kids needed at the time, too, rather than ordering it online. (This only works if the prices aren't outrageous- they don't have to be cheaper than the discount places, but they can't be in the "only for the independently wealthy" range, either. Maybe $10-$20 for kids items, and Nordstrom level pricing for me.)
Of course, no such store exists, at least not here in San Diego. Old Navy is the closest, and their clothes just don't work for me. Also, the store is too big and chaotic for me to shop while letting my kids play. So I'll stick with my current infrequent clothes shopping schedule- and I'll probably continue to try to buy some of my clothes online, even though I have a pretty poor success rate with that approach. I'd say that about half the time I'm really happy with what I ordered, and half the time I'm not. I am rarely unhappy enough to bother with the return, though, so I guess the online retailers are winning- except that I do eventually learn and give up on a particular store/brand.
What about you? What things do you prefer to buy in a physical store? And why? What would a store need to do to compete with the online retailers and get your business on merit? I'm less interested in people choosing to shop local on principle- that's cool, but there are a lot of principles competing for my time, if you know what I mean. You can, of course, argue with me about that in the comments, too!