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Sat June 18 2016 22:11:54

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

By: Ina Steiner

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When people started selling online, it was great for buying hard-to-find goods that local retailers didn't carry. But to some, it seems there is a growing number of common items that are not being carried in local stores.

An eBay seller described their frustration in trying to find some common items locally in a thread on the eBay discussion board, "I just got another Reminder Of Why Retail Is Dying and should buy everything online." 

First, the seller went to buy AA rechargeable batteries. They tried the local dollar store (it had stopped selling them), a mini mart, a grocery store, and a drug store - all sold out. "This has happened to me many times before for a myriad of products from space heaters to electronic accessories to my size of clothing," they wrote, and listed some examples.

Another person made an interesting point in responding to the thread: why can't you click sort by lowest price first all the brands of gherkins on the shelves in the pickles aisle? 

Interesting idea - the way we shop online is changing our expectations of how we should be able to shop offline as well. Online checkout may even be contributing to the growing number of self-checkout aisles at retail stores as shoppers get used to the concept.

Are you seeing changes in the items your local stores carry? And do you think online shopping is contributing to a decrease in selection at brick-and-mortar stores? What are the consequences?




Comments (28) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Nuts2U This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 19 00:13:43 2016

Yes. Empty. I keep a running list of things I need, and once a month I go on a hunting expedition for non-grocery things. Recently I had a list of 10 items, hit 8 stores and netted 3 of them. Anything I don't find within a 25-mile radius, I order from Amazon.

And the things I can't find - we're not even talking weird stuff. Witch hazel, Melitta coffee, Levis, cat food, printer paper. There are 3 hardware stores in my town. Can I get satin polyurethane? Vacuum cleaner bags? Curtain rings? Heck no.

For a while my town had 4 drugstores within a 2-block area, but if I needed vitamin C, forget it. There was also a pet food store that was always closed, for hours at a time, in the middle of the day every weekday. Eventually they went out of business. Can't imagine why.

I don't know how any local stores stay in business. I go in and they say, ''We don't have what you want but we can order it for you.'' WTF? I can order it myself, thanks. Who needs them for that?

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 19 07:33:08 2016

Why would anyone buy online instead of going to their local store.

1. Lower Prices
2. Free Shipping
3. Open 24/7
4. No Obnoxious Clerks
5. Saves Time
6. Saves Wear N Tear On Car
7. No Screaming Out Of Control
Brats
8. No Pushing Shoving Crowds
9. Free Returns For All Including
Scammers.
10. No Dirty Junk Filled Stores
11. No High Pressure Sales Jerks

Online shopping has its hazards but overall its a lot better than having to drive to a store with nasty clerks to get what you want.

If you need instant gratification and can't wait for it to be delivered to you then you need to get in your little car and go to the store cause online shopping will only disappoint you.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Rosered This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 19 13:52:16 2016

@Nuts2U. Yes,I cannot find many of the things I want. If I go in a local store and can't find what I want, 90% of the time I do not get an offer "to order it for me" Or they tell me the computer sends them their items they have no control over it. What???

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sun Jun 19 17:16:44 2016

A local K-Mart just went out of business here. Remaining merch was sent over to the LAST K-Mart in the county. I could not find a simple pair of slippers they always carried. Finally found them at the K-Mart website. Bought 4 pair. They'll be here in 7 days. Worth the wait. Didn't have to hear the crappy store rap music or deal with the racist workers. Totally worth it.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Sun Jun 19 18:53:53 2016

Don't ever let these stores tell you that ecommerce turned them into wastelands.  No, their being wastelands is what created the ecommerce boom.  They all think they can chase the same lowest common denominator and ignore the rest of the market.

But let's not forget to tip our hats to global property holding companies doing their part to insure that storefronts go empty and stay that way thanks to their insatiable greed that's completely divorced from reality.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 00:45:30 2016

I love the experience of shopping in a store and lucky me, I live in Chicago a big retail store.  We have more than enough targets and 3 Walmarts in the city.  Shopping centers and shopping strips almost everywhere.
I usually shop online first and see if it's IN inventory in the store and then go buy it in the store.  If not, I order it and have sent to the store.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 08:55:47 2016

No doubt about it- in the war of bricks vs. clicks, the clicks are winning. I own a small B&M shop in a tourist center and can tell you first hand people have stopped buying, even if they're on vacation.

They take plenty of photos rather than buying anything. This is how they remember their vacation, with pictures, not trinkets.

Brick & mortar stores today are like what video stores were back in the day, just before all the technology changed- dinosaurs.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 09:13:54 2016

Jewel grocery in Chicago CLOSED their self checkout lanes. When asked they claimed  one used them, even though everytime I was there there were people waiting to use them.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: IDKwhoIare

Mon Jun 20 10:06:57 2016

This is one of my pet peeves...not finding items or selection in stores.  However, it is NOT a new phenomenon.  This started in the early 1990s and, in my opinion, is what drove the shift to internet shopping.  It did for me.

I got so tired of being offered cheap and shoddy merchandise in limited color/style selections or not being able to find anything that was not 'seasonal'.  Notably limited toy selection except during the Holiday shopping season back then.  I started hearing about online stores and I was hooked.

Brick & Morter stores can whine that the Internet (especially the excuse that no sales tax gives the online stores an unfair advantage...what?) is killing their stores, the truth is they killed themselves.  Even their offerings online under their own name/website consists of the same limited crap that ran me out of their stores and they are soooo behind on how to present information for online sales.  Missing basic information like dimensions, materials, etc. They do have pretty pictures, but usually it is a single view. They have a lot to learn.  Like someone else here said, I will have things sent to the store for pick-up at places that do so, mostly so I can see what I am getting before I pay.  Sad.  They then complain about Returns? SMH.

This Father's Day I wanted to get my husband an Ipod.  He has to use a Blackberry phone for work and is not allowed to download apps or non-business stuff to the phone, so an Ipod is still relevant for him.  I did not want to buy it on Amazon because they could not get it to me in time without me paying $20 more than elsewhere.  Then I found out that 'elsewhere' did not have any but the smallest (16GB) on hand.  Best Buy, HH Greggs, Walmart, Target, etc, all required one to order online for the better models and wait 2-3 weeks for delivery.  Really? I looked for a week and finally found one in a small Mom & Pop store and paid as much as I would have if I had ordered it on Amazon.  So be it.  Rather give the M&P store the money if I am going to have to overpay.

Consequences of this empty shelf problem?  My local grocery stores quit carrying my favorite jelly.  Smuckers Apple.  Found it online at smuckers.com.  Found out that the company sells their other brand items as well.  Turned out that I buy most of those brands.  I bought many of my non-perishable groceries there that day.  The local grocery stores lost $100 in sales for the month.  

I expect this trend to continue.  I do not know if I like it.  I do not want to have buy everything online.  We seem to be in a Catch22 loop.  Stuff not available instore, buy online, results in less available for local & immediate purchase...until?  Once again the pendulum is swinging.  

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: IDKwhoIare

Mon Jun 20 10:14:12 2016

Note:  The Millenials will be the driving force in this situation...again.  How many of them would have searched for a week for the Ipod?  Just call me a dinosaur.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: BigR This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 12:12:07 2016

Amazon will not take over the retail world.
2015 total US retail = 5 trillion $.
2015 Walmart revenue = 470 billion.
2015 Amazon revenue = 107 billion.
The fact is, US consumers disposable income is at an all time low and folks are only buying what they need or really, really, really want.
I have been in retail for 30 years and I will say online shopping has great appeal, however, when people have money in their pockets, they go SHOPPING!!!.
Shopping in a brick/mortar store with friends or relatives is a Social experience like no other.
Humans are social creatures and through millions of years have ingrained into their basic instincts the need for gathering and hunting.
Shopping online is okay if your buying Tide or Dawn, cause you always know what you are getting.
Nothing is like shopping in person and being able to feel the fabric of a dress or to pick the ripest tomato from the rack.
For all the folks that have noting better to do other than whine and complain online, get out and SMELL THE ROSES.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 13:47:22 2016

Retailers in my city are constantly out of goods, but I attribute that to my city being a C/D market.  Unfortunately, the grocery stores are now following suit and are out of stock on Sunday/Monday Often they aren't fully restocked until Wednesday...and sell out Thur-Sat.  I'm considering moving and one thing I plan to do in the new city prior to my move is check out the retailers and grocery stores mid-week.  Some things you really can't get online.  

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 20 17:22:16 2016

Big R- thanks for your post and for reminding me why I'm still in business.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Tue Jun 21 13:01:37 2016

I used to be a really good customer of brick and mortar stores.  For years, I only bought old toys online; almost everything new came from a local store.  I even used to special order tapes from Suncoast because I was there every other weekend.

Media Play closing knocked down my PC game purchases to damned near zero.  Mitt Romney murdered KB Toys (and is almost done with Toys R Us).  Suncoast sold its warehouses or something and suddenly you couldn't order anything more than about 6 months old.  KMart bought Sears (WTF) and now both stores are ruined (premium prices for Chinese tools/appliances).  Borders gobbled up and choked on every book store worth a damn.  The only bigger joke in electronics than Best Buy is HHGregg; hard to buy anything but a laptop anymore (for crying out loud, forget any printer brand but HP/Brother or anything with a physical aspect like digital pens/pads or furniture).

Thankfully, I settled into more common clothing sizes than when I was younger because deviate a size or two from the mean in any direction and you won't find shoes or pants or anything.

But it's totally sales tax to blame because it's not like online sales have a shipping charge, right?  Typical American businesses, making stupid decision after stupid decision and blaming everyone but themselves for the results.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Tue Jun 21 21:42:03 2016

To : Flying Childers :
VACATION TRINKETS > I prefer to buy things made in America by people in the area in which I'm vacationing.
Chinese merch turns me off completely.
Lamps with Shades commemorating the place, moccasins, paperweights, posters of local sights, vases, pens, coats, pants, hats... all made there....

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: Jus_e This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 22 01:33:01 2016

Its a mixture of all the things. I work in retail as a merchandiser p/t and I work from home doing freelance work for a company called Appen Butler Hill.

The merchandising auditing and rotating product, stocking shelf to capacity is a joke. There is no stock to pack out, 89% of the time, so I am standing there looking kinda'stupid. My pay is based on the work I do....no stock, no pack out, no money. This is happening so much, I'm kinda' amazed and I stand there wondering if anyone else is noticing this...

The Freelance company has so much work and pays very well, I think that this is going to be a very good market soon. However, the work can be very tedious and one assignment I just couldn't do because it bored me to tears. I fell asleep on my keyboard with runaway zzzzz across my screen. Not everyone can do this, you have to qualify and take tests that can sometimes take days and they are non paid.
If you can stick it out, its well worth it. The pay is nice and on -time....ooops, forgot to mention, the biggest catch22.  They only pay once a month, the tasks only last about a month, or up to six months, but if your good, they will keep you busy.  They also do crowd sourcing work and they pay biweekly on them. Some pay as high as 24.00 for maybe an hours worth of work, again, can be tedious. If you need extra cash, while ebay is on a serious downside, go check them out.

My ebay store has been on vacation for awhile, I wasn't get sales anyway.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Wed Jun 22 08:22:59 2016

Oh, manufacturers deserve plenty of blame too.  Toy manufacturers in particular are bad about timing product with media.  Tots come out months before a movie hits or years after a show ends.  Then they can't figure out why kids aren't interested and blame video games.  You know what I as a retailer like about video games?  They hit release dates and everybody gets them at the same time.  Release dates for toys are lies and small retailers are always last to get theirs no matter how early they preordered.  So when something comes up for order, no matter how good it is, we have to think long and hard about whether we should even bother.

It's very difficult to get anywhere like that.  Because when you're small, your business is more event driven (cons).  And the scheduling lies make it super difficult to get anything in time to make those events.  That in turn makes it near impossible to turn around enough volume consistently to entertain a storefront where some layabout takes you for $10K per month whether you sell anything or not.  eBay used to be a way around that but then Witless and Donahole put a stop to that.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: FEEbay

Wed Jun 22 09:37:58 2016

We have both E-Commerce and Brick and Mortar, and the reality is that Brick and Mortar is deader than Elvis....At this point it primarily serves as a place for local folks to stop by and pick up their online orders:) I am part of the problem as well...EVERYTHING except household items and groceries, are bought via Amazon PRIME, and I mean EVERYTHING.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 22 18:40:12 2016

Manufatorers did it to themselves - and still do.

NOT that online retailers are anyones saviors - they arent.They contribute to OTHER issues - just ones that are beyond the scope of this post.

There are only 2 types or retailers left today. Big or Small. Small cant compete with big unless they are either very specific in what they sell or the dedication from the owners is so tremendous that a big store or chain cant compete.

Helping run a $100 million store in mid town Manhattan taught me alot about how this game works - the good and the bad - mostly bad.

Big stores stink because they can. Small stores are cleaner, nicer, better selection and they are usually run by better people.

MOST (anyone you have ever heard of) uses big stores for ADVERTISING. The constant promotions, the back end money, the specials, the gifts - all of it - makes it so small stores cant compete.

Take places like B&H Photo or Adorama or Datavision in NYC. They are HUGE $100-300 million dollar players - and the money that they run on comes from the manufacturers.

They either DFI (deduct from invoice) or get advertising credit(s) that they can deduct right off the invoice.

Nikon gives %5 back, Canon %6, Pentax %2, Monster %10 and the list goes on and on.

I've go to CES, sat in a manufacturers booth and asked them about ocsts and pricing - all while they admit to me UPFRONT - "yeh we give them $20k a year JUST TO BE IN THEIR STORE". Im lucky if I do 20k WITH them a whole year.

They pay for "salesman training", provide free demo units, supply samples and back end money.

Most sellers have "contracts" with manufacturers - they wont carry ANYONES item unless they get paid UPFRONT (via DFI on the first due invoice) $10k+.

There are a few exceptions to the rule - people who wont give out a penny - but because of who they are - they have that muscle - ie Nintendo and Apple (there are a few others as well).

Retail sucks because its not about servicing the customer or even caring about what you sell. Retail is about having the money to set up a beautiful store, getting money from the manufacturers, backdooring the goods on the street, and then when you are done - you go chap 11 on the manufacturer.

Almost EVERY store that you have heard of recently that has gone OOB - has done that game (like Radio Shack) and all the rest will too.

Manufacturers look the other way because they HATE Amazon and its race to the bottom, so they pretend the games "dont exist".

The entire racket is enough to make anyone ill.

Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?   Are Local Stores Coming Up Empty?

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri Jun 24 19:39:13 2016

AGAIN : Vacuum store didn't have a hose in stock.
I got it myself online.
I would have preferred to go pick it up at the store after I called, but they didn't have it in stock....

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