Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Paying to Shop...Interesting Concept or Stupid Idea?

One of the town's few remaining retailers announced that he'd be charging a $2 browsing fee for entering his store. Apparently, the fee will entitle the shopper to receive a discount when making purchases. There has been a backlash. I wish him luck.


On the other hand, there are store owners who approach the downward spiral in the economy or whatever the latest excuse is for the lack of shopping quite differently. There's a particular clothing store that I personally love called "From the Bottoms Up". I shop there from time to time, and yes, there are occasions when I browse without purchasing anything. Sometimes, I find that I just need to look around to see if there's anything that appeals to me. I've also returned later to purchase items that I had admired previously. Whenever my friend comes to town, we spend hours in the store, trying on clothing and buying much...too much. The staff is friendly and helpful. Alterations are provided in the store. The owner knows us by name. Employees are honest enough to tell us when we look bad in an outfit. My friend has even driven other out-of-town friends a considerable distance to purchase clothing in this store.

When I was watching an episode of "The View",  the ladies mentioned how some stores are now charging fees for trying on clothing. Apparently the rationale is that shops are attempting to protect themselves from people who go home and then order the items online. This is called "showrooming" and can be a problem considering stores have overhead, salaries, rent, bills and theft to cover. But, are they really protecting themselves by charging a fee, or are they in fact protecting themselves from potential purchasers?

Designer Vera Wang charges close to $500 for customers in Shanghai to try on her bridal gowns. On the other hand, if someone can afford to purchase one of her dresses, the $500 probably comes out of their loose change.

The concept of charging a fee has spread beyond the realm of clothing. A food specialty shop in Australia has begun to charge a $5 browsing fee. Shoe stores are asking for a "fitting fee". Some, but not all stores will refund the fee if an item is purchased.

Daily Finance’s Matt Brownell calls this policy, “the most misguided strategy we’ve seen for dealing with showrooming… The goal of any retailer should be to impress customers with competitive pricing and great customer service — not treat their customers with suspicion and hostility from the moment they walk in the door.”

Word of mouth and social media can go a long way to help deserving smaller businesses. I think that customer service and satisfaction is important when it comes to survival. Stores need to go the extra mile as it were. Besides bringing customers to my favourite store, I have commented positively on facebook about it. On the other hand, the local shop which will be charging the "browsing fee" has done nothing but attract negative attention in the media and online.

So, where do you think the future of shopping is headed?

June 28th Update

It enjoyed seeing this sign at one of the local strip malls today. Someone is cleverly taking advantage of the backlash.

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