I’m not much of a store shopper anymore. I don’t get up at 4:oo in the morning to catch that great sale. Every time I go to the mall, it looks different as new stores replace old ones.
Let’s face it. I live in Flagstaff, Arizona. I used to love going out to the mall when Flagstaff was smaller and businesses were more local. But each year Flagstaff shopping is becoming more and more like shopping anywhere in the country. Just close your eyes and you can pretend you’re in a mall in Phoenix, San Jose, or even Orlando.
Except for those unique little gifts that you can't find all over the country, for me, the internet is my choice for most shopping. And apparently others feel the same way.
The past holiday season was the busiest holiday season yet for my two businesses Creative Gifts To Go and Grand Canyon Teddy Bear Company and surprisingly more and more of my business is coming from the internet. Even a lot of my local Flagstaff deliveries were orders placed on the internet.
In addition to orders that I filled, through our network of gift basket companies across the country, Gift Basket Network, I was able to send last minute customers to local gift basket companies as far away as Chicago, Dallas, and even Europe.
Based on my own experiences, I think I’ve discovered the reason for the transition from local shopping to online.
The other day I had a little time between making deliveries and stopped into a local store to find something special to add to one of the gifts for my granddaughter. This experience confirmed my decision to shop online.
I was looking for a pair of ear rings. To get to them, I walked through departments where merchandise was on the floor or tossed onto a rack with no attempt to fold them or hang them neatly. I finally reached the jewelry counter where two clerks were laughing and joking with each other. I searched the counters for what I was looking for, never once being approached by one of clerks.
Finally when a possibility caught my eye, I looked up to see that the clerks had disappeared to the far end of the counter…still deep in conversation.
I walked out, went home, and clicked on Google and found the perfect gift.
This experience, plus several other recent ones, confirm why more and more retail is shifting to online. Stores have become unpleasant places to shop. Consumers want a shopping experience that is fast and efficient and to leave with the feeling that the company actually wants their business.
True, you have to pay shipping charges when you shop online. Beware of the so-called free shipping. Nothing in this life is free. You pay for it whether it’s called shipping, less product, or higher prices.
But, that aside, no one likes to be gouged for shipping (and many of the local shipping stores charge a premium for their services). No one likes to stand in long lines at UPS or the Post Office. The option, as more and more people are discovering, is an online gift company that ships quickly and reasonably. The telephone companies used to advertise, “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.” A quality online gift company could have the slogan “Let Us Stand in Line for You This Holiday season!”
Recent sales figures throughout the country confirm that I am right. Even those stores that have both a retail outlet and a website location have discovered that their web sales are outpacing their local sales. Some of these stores are getting it right when they go online–making the shopping experience a positive one for their customers.
But others are simply replicating their retail store — handling customers the way they always have done. I recently was looking online for a John Deere themed comforter for my grandson. I found just what I was looking for at one of the ebay stores. It was new. It was priced right and the shipping was reasonable.
But thinking I should check some of the better-known stores first, I found a very similar one at J.C. Penney’s online store but the description didn’t match the picture. I emailed their customer service and received an automatic reply that they would respond within 48 hours. They did eventually reply several days later. By the time they finally replied, I had completed a fast, efficient transaction at ebay and it was already on its way to me.
So, like many others throughout the world, this Gift Detective prefers to shop local But, unfortunately, many times it is easier and more efficient to shop online. Even then, the experience can be like mine at the J.C. Penny's online store.
Amazon is the "go -t0-shop" for just about everything for many people. But that is not always the best answer. Here's a little secret about Amazon from this Gift Detective that some of you may not be aware of or are and just don't think about it. Amazon is a marketplace. They don't produce their gifts but provide a place of millions of individuals and large corporations to sell. Sometimes you'll get a good price and bargain there particularly if you pay the fee to be an Amazon Prime customer. But the stores that sell on Amazon pay extra fees to sell there and you will frequently be able to get better prices and service by going to the seller's website for that perfect little gift you find on Amazon.
I've changed the slogan for my own gift website to: "Gift Giving Made Simple for Lives That Aren't" because that is what i am determined to do for my customers.