Monday, 28 May 2007

Retail Issues

Weird Darren, after finding a cheap tent in a supermarket asks:

For me our biggest loss will be the independent retailer whether it be bricks and mortor or web based. As this is where most of the knowledge tends to be had when people buy gear, as these businesses are usually run be people that are into the outdoors and have experience of it.

Across in Germany, Lighthiker commented that:

One of the most prominent advertisement slogans in the past years in Germany was “Geiz ist geil” which means “Stinginess is awesome”. It was so successful because it is not only a slogan but describes what a big portion of Germany’s society is looking after: Spending less and less money for all sorts of things but still expecting high quality products.

Could this be the usual triangle of time-cost-quality?

Quality. For example, when I buy a dvd months after its release date, I pay less, but expect the same quality. However, if I pay less for a tent (excluding sales), I am probably getting a poorer quality tent. Materials may be heavier, or not as water resistant.

Time. I like buying kit in the sales. Some retailers have online sales, others have sales at their factory shops, or at shows. And eBay, or other auction sites (there must be other auction sites).

So, who loses from the supermarkets? I've previously commented on the differences between online and real-life shops. Supermarkets are too big to specialize. They buy and sell in bulk. To a beginner, wet-weather gear is just something to keep the rain off. Bulk and weight probably don't come into the picture. Cost does.

So, do specialist shops lose out? Only if they cater to the beginners' end of the market. Some sell festival packs - the sort of area that is ideal supermarkets.

Supermarkets don't have knowledgeable outdoors sales assistants. Specialist shops do.

We've already seen Millets and Blacks hit. High-street outlets selling festival packs, but offering more.

I'd be worried if (or, when) the supermarkets start a specialist DoE aisle, with a personal shopper.

Then, maybe, the specialist shops would need to look at the online world and see what people were doing there, and how a company like Alpkit fosters a brand-name. How retailers of lightweight kits are winning customer loyalty. How online communities are bursting out of print magazines.

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