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You would be surprised how many don't even have a website!

By: Chris Wilson March 2013

Being a friend and occasional advisor to someone who ran our local tackle shop for 25 years, and now a supplier myself, I have a good sense of why.

Stick in the mud and technophobe types aside; though really there shouldn't be any need to procrastinate these days with eBay, ready-made websites, CMS and outsourcing etc. The idea of selling online might scare the hell out of some retailers for two main reasons;

Reason 1.
They think they would need to compete on price with all the myriad of others selling online.
I can see the logic in that statement and in some cases this might be true, but not necessarily so as I think, rather than entering into a price war, variety is equally important too. Variety is 'convenience' to the customer and is particularly easy to do online (not having to hold inventory), and a lost leader will always entice.

Price plays its part but the convenience factor is equally important online, much as it is for the local Chav looking to bag a bargain or too. Having entered your online shop and seeing all what you have to offer (much more than he would otherwise see in your retail shop) he would be encouraged to register and buy something. presented by your 'Aladdin's cave'. He will most likely spend a little extra than he intended which is no bad thing - without being too bothered about having to search and register again on competitors sites in order to save a bob or two. Its the online equivalent of conveniently being able to shop under one roof albeit a virtual one with better descriptions of the products on offer in your 'real' shop.

Reason 2.
They would have to price match (and possibly reduce) what they sell in their shop with what they would be selling online.
Again, there may be an element of truth in that. It may be true for the majority of small stock items but not necessarily so if you looked into drop shipping schemes (or the drop-to-shop scheme that we created) as it would vastly reduce the need to hold inventory and will enable you to sell on a level playing field. Also instead of attributing all direct costs & overheads to the Bricks & Mortar business it should be shared with the cost of doing business online.

Price is the common denominator, especially so in a recession but also variety is important too.
Anglers searching the Internet could see at a glance (from the comfort of their bivvy at 2.30am with socks off) if their local dealer had such items available. If they list a non stock item as being attainable in a day or so (and the price is comparative) then surely that would be a good thing? I think the price difference between shipping and the convenience of being able to pick it up personally would be negligible too.

From a buyers point of view, isn't both variety and price the key to whether or not we shop local?
Lack of real estate, money for investment and holding lots of stock under one roof is obviously very prohibitive for the vast majority of retailers.
Supermarkets are successful because they have variety (the buying power) and sell at a price which puts local shops out of business. Local high street dealers who are seeing little foot fall and struggling for cash trying to maintain high stock levels - are simply not going to make it, at least not in the traditional sense now the bigger players like Go Outdoors are muscling in.

The new Supermarket
Talking of big stores, the Internet is also seen as the new 'supermarket' which appears to threaten the livelihood and very existence of small retailers. Instead of being intimidated by it or burying ones head in the sand, it should be embraced whilst offering a personal and local service too (at Internet prices). It can, given the right supply chain, put the small retailer into the same position as some of the bigger players. The Internet levels the playing field for many and is a brilliant marketing tool that needn't be feared.

But why stop there?
Why limit yourself to just having one website or online presence?
Spread yourself around, don't be a corner shop is my advice.

I tried for years to persuade our local dealer in the high street to adopt this online strategy, the then "new" fandangle'd Internet thingy was emerging in the UK (1995), sadly he, like many others, was a traditionalist, a technophobe that blamed everything but his unwillingness to adapt and he folded 3 years ago without ever once selling a thing online.

The solution?
Unfortunately there is no magic bullet, but I think if shops treated their bricks and mortar businesses as a real-life showcase or window shopping experience - a marketing tool, similar to Argos but with real touchy feely for the locals (instead of products tucked away behind the scenes & catalogues), and they also sold online, I think they would stand a much better chance of survival.

Expensive tackle and luxury items can even be secured on loan from some manufacturers as demonstration models, the bait, bits and pieces sold on a daily basis would and should (especially if supplemented by their online sales), enable them to continue paying the rent.

The days of making money from a Bricks & Mortar only business has gone, unless you have both variety and an online presence (with even more variety), and a good few lost leaders thrown in for good measure, the convenience factor alone is not going to keep them coming through the door.

 

Chris Wilson: A self-proclaimed "Nut job", Consultant and professional design engineer.
Owner at LAGUNA FP LTD | Pristex Ltd

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