My trip abroad was a strange experience in putting me back in proximity to ‘real world’ companies. I’m involved in a couple of internet businesses and these days Claire and I do most of our shopping online now we live in the Highlands. It’s amazing to see that some businesses still don’t get the fact that they are about to be annihilated by online.
My compact camera is one of my most important tools for being a ‘pro’ climber and a blogger. It needed replacing. I was eager while in the US continent to see if I could get hold of a certain model cheaper than on the the net (which, needless to say is far cheaper than in the UK shops).
So I walked into a large high street dedicated camera store called Lens & Shutter in Vancouver and looked for the camera. It worked out within a few pounds the same as I’d get it on Ebay but the Ebay prospect had a large memory card thrown in. I told the salesman my situation and that I’d take the camera right now if he would throw in the memory card. If he couldn’t do that I’d just buy it there and then (on Ebay) and it would be at my door back in Scotland before I was.
He let me know their policy was only to price match against stores in British Columbia. Surely if you don’t even try to compete with the biggest threat to you business since it began, you’re already as good as dead. I guess they must not have heard about the struggles of camera high st stores on our shores.
I laughed and left, wishing him good luck in my head. Thankfully the shop on the other side of town had more sense, gave me a good deal and made the sale.
Sure, if you sell coffee or your service adds some sort of value then you can choose to compete only with your neighbours down the street. But if you sell cameras, magazines, or climbing gear, realise that the real map is online, and expensive and slow and only open ‘business’ hours is not prime real estate.
Earlier this year I needed to replace my 100m static rope for working on Echo Wall. Claire happened to be in the same (unnamed so not to embarrass) city as their biggest store at the time so I called to see if they had any in stock, ready to buy one there and then. Whoever answered can’t have been in front of a computer with their stock info as they told me they’d need to put me through to the climbing dep’t. After some time on hold the same person came back on and told me ‘there doesn’t seem to be anyone around’ in the climbing section and asked me to call back in 5 minutes. As I waited the five minutes I searched, on my phone, for some prices online. One click on google found an amazing price and before my five minutes was up I’d ordered it and called Claire to let her know she wouldn’t be needing to visit the retail store.
I had phoned the store first out of loyalty after having bought a lot of gear from them over the years. But ultimately, it was a hands down win for the more switched on web stores.
As I write I’m still waiting for my lost baggage to arrive back from Air Canada. They told me it would definitely be here yesterday. Even if it had come today, I might have had my cams do climb a good new route in tomorrows sunny forecast. I won’t forget the lost day next time I want to go to Canada.