Thursday 24 July 2008

Dead end business

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.


  1. So true about online business. Either the shops in town will learn, or go under.

    I can't believe you checked your trad rack on the plane. I would never trust them. I carried on my full rack from Wisconsin to Colorado and back. No problems either way. The TSA agent from Colorado said "Your a climber eeh" to which I happily responded "Yes" and I went on my marry way.

    Hope your luggage gets back to you soon.

  2. You snooze, you true.

    Glad you had a good trip, and yes, the best bit about going away is coming home. Always :-)


  3. Anonymous25 July, 2008

    the one thing you forget dave is that here in vancouver (possibly canada?) there is no such thing as online shopping. it seems as if the size of the place keeps delivery costs too high compared to the relative "compactness" of the UK.

    either that or they haven't cottoned on to the whole internet sales thing - it's very annoying but it also keeps local businesses thriving, takes longer to find stuff though!

    most of my online shopping is done from the states and then i have to pay extra taxes etc. most of the time.

    oh and.. what's wrong with flying with zoom? much cheaper than air canada and a good carrier. sonnie trotter also had his stuff lost recently, not sure which airline it was with?

  4. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    Hey Dave, Glad to see you enjoyed your visit to Canada. It seems you had a true Canadian experience by having your luggage lost by Air Canada...been there many times myself!

    I hope that experience doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth and you decide to return to Canada in the near future.

    Dave, I am really looking forward to your upcomng book on trainnig for climbing! Any idea about a time frame for its release?

    Luc from Ontario

  5. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    Enjoyed your shopping comments as much as your climbing ones. Definitely have had identical experiences all the way around. I don't want to lose my local gear shop, or local camera shop, etc. But makes you wonder if some of them have even heard of the Internet! Speaking of which, you've practiced what you preach with the Velvet Antlers site --it's spot on for design, layout and navigation.

  6. Anonymous31 July, 2008

    Internet vs high street isn't as simple a competition as you make it seem though -

    At a shop I worked in a chap walked in to a GPS demo event we had on, chatted to a rep, played with several GPS units (took them outside, read the manuals, asked questions etc), talked to a member of staff and then told us he wasn't buying one from us because he could get it cheaper on the net.

    See what I'm getting at?

  7. Air Canada -SUCKS-. I broke my ankle in Squamish and they decided they wouldn't let me board without a doctor's consent note, and since I had one, they moved me out of a seat. where I could actually get my ankle elevated per doctor's orders. Canada's tax dollars at work. I paid twice for that privilege :)