Stores Fighting Back Against The Web

shopping crowds

We’ve been wondering when brick-and-mortar shops were going to fight back against the growing force of online shopping — and in Australia, the anti-online movement has arrived.  Sydney shop owners, faced with declining sales and emptier stores, are coming up with more than a few creative strategies for keeping consumers buying on the street and not on the web.

Shopping – with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be like this.

The most aggressive tactic cited by the Sydney Morning Herald is a try-on fee — stores are actually charging shoppers to try on clothing, and refunding their money when they make a purchase.  From one point of view, the idea makes sense — it can keep people from heading to stores just to try things on and then heading to their laptops to buy. But from a consumer perspective, it’s a turnoff. Plus, what if the lack of a sale is just the result of nothing fitting?

Most of the methods, however, are meant to benefit shoppers, by making real-life shopping more enticing. Boutique owner Clare Press said she keeps her work studio over her store in order to come down and offer personalized service to customers.  She also offers salon-style shows and hosts VIP nights, complete with champagne and nibbles.

The VIP invitation, whether it’s for a designer meet-and-greet or to pre-sell a new collection, seems like the the most prevalent tactic in distinguishing traditional retail from online commerce.  Almost all the retailers the Herald interviewed hosted some kind of invite-only event in their stores — a move similar to American department stores’ recent revival of the trunk show.

Other Sydney street tactics:

  • Tea salon set up in the corner of a store (sounds like this would benefit any reluctant children/husbands)
  • Film nights
  • Photography exhibitions
  • One-on-one sessions with in-store stylists
  • Wardrobe stylists who make house calls (this is definitely the most charming, though probably the least realistic in terms of overhead)

Of course, many of these ploys are being put into practice alongside the physical stores’ launch of an e-commerce site.  There’s certainly wisdom to the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach.  But what we like about these events and parties is the amped-up infusion of actual fun.  While elite designers’ trunk shows might err on the side of exclusivity, most of the Sydney stores’ approaches are genuinely inviting, or at least interesting.  And, as much as online commerce yields good deals on items, no crowds or long lines at checkout, and an increasing number of online magazines, there’s no substitution for a real-life party.

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