This week we had news reports of more store closings, with the announcement that Radio Shack, Office Depot and Staples are closing locations, JC Penney is laying off thousands of employees and the final closing of (*sigh*) Loehmann’s.
CNN ran this story yesterday, attributing retail downsizing to the increase in online commerce. I get the convenience of shopping in your pajamas but that poses some issues. First, I like to feel the fabric and see the stitches in clothing. I need to try things on before I buy because odds are, they won’t fit right.
Then there’s the social aspect: browsing and buying with other people, sharing laughs and opinions. Silly shopping conversation morphs into more substantial talk in the store, in the car, while walking. Have you bonded lately over the Amazon screen?
We need to be out and together more, not less. You can do only so much thinking and doing by yourself. Even running errands in the neighborhood finds me greeting the usual locals. I would like to think that the soon-to-be-vacant retail locations will become social places, like craft studios or family style gyms like the YMCA. I see this as an opportunity for people to be together to create and recreate.
Today was a beautiful day for a drive so I went to Ikea. I get inspiration there and always find something cheerful to buy. Although I had glanced at the online catalog before going, I didn’t notice the buoy-shaped solar light that I now own. Don’t know if it works but I’m a big fan of the potential of solar and today I put my money where my mouth is. Being physically there made that possible.
While in a store I expect decent customer service. I applauded a local Staples closing about a year ago because the staff was appalling; I had already switched to a different location with courteous, knowledgeable people. (They fixed my laptop without making me feel like an idiot!) It’s a business’s responsibility to treat their customers as valuable to the survival of the business. When you have to call a customer service number, you have no idea what kind of person will answer or whether that operator will know anything. (That one’s for you, Cable Company.)
Understand that if I had small children I would certainly take my chances with online when necessary, and I’d be that lady at the grocery drive-through as well. You do what you have to do.
I sincerely hope traditional retail takes the same attitude and does its best to win back some of the customers lost to the web.