Striking a Balance between Shopping Online, a Retail Chain and a Local Mom & Pop

We live in the epitome of convenience. Everything you want to buy, from groceries to auto parts can be found and bought online. You don’t even need to get out of the house anymore, because many online retailers offer free shipping for a minimum purchase fee. If you need an item asap, you can even overnight it. Yup, online stores are making a killing, but at what cost?

The Brick & Mortar Store

Brick and mortar stores have a lot of overhead – rent, store upkeep, utilities, employee salaries, insurance, security, marketing and a point of sale system are some of the major expenses stores have to deal with, and these expenses are added to the prices of their items, which are often higher when compared to an online store.

A typical employee is not just a salary. The store pays for insurance, medical care, paid vacation leave, sick days and eventually, some sort of retirement fund. Inventory is time consuming and needs extra space. As you can see, running a brick and mortar store is no joke, and unless you don’t pay any rent, prices can never really be set too low.

The Online Store

Compare that to an online store. It doesn’t take much to run an ecommerce website. There are a lot of providers who can handle hosting, shopping cart and payment options, which make it super convenient if only a few people (think 2) handle the online store. There’s also no inventory, because items are ordered directly from the manufacturers.

Once an order is placed, it ships directly from the manufacturers to the buyer, cutting out everyone else. This is where Amazon shines, because sellers on the site don’t need to stock on anything. Amazon handles inventory, customer orders and shipping duties. All the seller needs to do is handle the backend.

Local Stores are Hurting

The most affected sector of business are local mom n’ pop stores and family run establishments that have been in the same location since the beginning. Long before online shopping came around, these local businesses had to compete with large retail chains that set up shop near them.

Those who couldn’t compete or adapt packed it in, while the resilient few braved the retail  chain onslaught and somehow survived, only to face another stiff challenge in online shopping. The few that are left standing need your support, and if the difference is only a few bucks and you can spare it, these local businesses need you.

Let’s Go Showrooming

If you’re a frugal buyer, chances are you’ve engaged in some sort of showrooming. This is when you go visit a brick and mortar store and look around for what you need. Once you see the item, touch it, hold in your hand and judge it to be worthy of your cash, you go ahead and buy it from an online store either at home or right there, using your phone.

This is the bane of brick and mortar stores everywhere, and many big retailers have fought back with apps that target people who go to their stores to do a little showrooming. When the app is used in-store, options such as discounts and other freebies await the customer. Plus, big retailers have started to match prices with online stores.

Specialty Stores are the Best

For everything online, specialty stores are the best. Hard to find items and products that are way more expensive to buy locally because of their rarity or lack of supply are best bought online. Sellers over at Etsy, eBay Powersellers and Amazon merchants that carry unique items and have their own page are worth checking out.

If you’re looking for more of a niche market in the motorsports industry, some sites have almost everything you’ll need for your ATV or snowmobile, making it a great one-stop online shop that even provides free shipping. When shopping online, it’s always a good idea to combine shipping to get it for free.

Final Word

The next time you need something, you can categorize it: f you the overall price isn’t too much of a difference and you can source it locally, do it. You’ll feel good about supporting your local business community. If you’re couponing or buying in bulk, go to a retail chain because you’ll be saving more money.

If the item you’re looking for is unique or hard to find, buy it online. If your savings are pretty substantial by shopping online, go ahead and do it. The free shipping options a lot of online retailers have are hard to beat. You’ll be saving time, gas and a long trip.


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