The Death of Bricks and Mortar Retail
Coming from an analyst background, and now being a recruiter, I have worked a lot on location planning projects through the years. It is with a sense of sadness that I write this piece about possibly another nail in the coffin for high street retail, based on a recent experience of mine.
Trying out shopping on the high street
Earlier this year, on my birthday, my wife kindly decided to take myself and our daughters to Manchester for a bit of retail therapy (mainly for me but Mrs H somehow ended up with yet another coat to add to her collection) and out for a birthday meal.
I needed some new shoes and I had seen an advert for a particular brand on the tube a few months earlier – the brand are renowned for comfort (I like to walk a lot when I head down to London) but not for style, however they seem to have improved the latter! This brand has a store in Manchester city centre so my youngest and I set of to the shop, so I could try some shoes on, whilst Mrs H headed to M&S for an(other) emergency coat.
The benefit was being able to try on several different styles before deciding on a pair, that were incidentally not advertised on the tube. I also got 10% off (that I could have used online) and also a great offer on 3 different products they recommend for the shoes (I usually resist this part). We then had a fantastic meal at Gusto, where we were joined by the eldest daughter bearing a lovely Birthday cake she had made, before setting off home all happy and full of our Manchester City centre experience.
What happens when the purchase is faulty?
A week or so later, after having worn the shoes which were really comfy, nice style and I was very happy with, I decided to try the 3 products I was sold – a foam cleaner, a cream and a waterproof spray (In that order, leaving 30 mins between each application). On the final product, to my horror, blotches started to appear on each shoe which could not be removed – they were ruined!
Obviously I phoned customer services to complain. After the Danish phone advisor initially being very helpful, he then went on to say, “oh sorry we only deal with online sales please contact the branch you bought the shoes from”. I don’t head to Manchester that often, so this already started to sound like a pain. The next step was to therefore email the shop, before calling and speaking to the manager who said I needed to come in person with the shoes to either exchange or refund. I have to add that by now I had thrown out my previous pair of shoes, so this could now be even more of a problem.
Online shopping would have been easier
To cut this long blog short – I managed to eventually get the shoes back but this involved sending my wife and eldest daughter to the shop in Manchester with the offending shoes, (a dangerous prospect sending the wife out to shop), to exchange for another pair.
This is supposedly the same company that also offer free postage and free returns with internet purchases, which turned out to be a much easier way to shop. I tried this service out by ordering my father some greatly reduced golf shoes – 3 pairs in different sizes, which was great for my Dad as he doesn’t take kindly to shopping. He then had a couple of days to try the different sizes on and chose which ones to keep, and which to send back (Which I conveniently did via a bargain booze outlet near me).
Retailers need to get on board with integrated online options
As they say “hindsight is a wonderful thing”, and if I had my time again on this episode, I would have tried the shoes on in the shop, as I was in Manchester anyway, and then ordered online. This experience shows some of the key challenges retailers are now facing given consumers willingness to order online. The whole experience I had was so disjointed, what they should enable is for me to purchase in store but also to then send back for free if required. A fairly simple process change surely.
It’s all about convenience and this whole experience inconvenienced me. Retailers and location planners should not fear online shopping but embrace it for the improvement of the overall shopping experience.
If you see me in London, or Manchester, or wherever, please admire the shoes – they took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get!