Earlier this week I asked for suggestions on a new place to buy books from. For various reasons, we want to make a change, and I was hoping for assistance. Lucky for me, I had thoughtful, educated assistance from you folks, and I am going to work with my hubby to do the research this weekend. What I didn’t anticipate was a discussion that started with regards to “bricks and mortar” loyalty. I think that this is a much needed conversation, and I am interested in hearing your opinions on this.
For much of my life, I have walked into either a grocery store or a retailer shop to purchase my books. The last fifteen years, I have mainly bought from our local shop, with the exception of a six to nine month period where we bought from the Mile High NICE program. I have always found comfort in a routine, and knowing that I could pick my books up weekly has filled that void.
One problem I face on a regular basis is the lateness of the books, whether by Diamond, UPS, or the retailer being unavailable to pick up the books at the local UPS warehouse. Because of my work and my commitment to fitness and the community, I have very limited time to allow for schedule changes. I have also been faced with apathy and derision from time to time from these mostly kind folks I have had a long relationship with. It is a bit confusing and awkward, and too involved to go into, so let me just say that the time has come to make a change.
The situation I face in doing so is that our town only has one comic book shop. Any alternative would mean at least an hour’s drive. That isn’t going to cut it. My alternative is getting my comics by USPS, UPS, or one of the lovely shipping companies, and to receive them from a reliable distributor, whether it is a brick and mortar shop that provides that service or an internet based store.
Do I think the day of the brick and mortar shop is over? No. Why Not? As a consumer there is still the comfort of human contact and relationships. Also, there are several top notch retailers out there who provide great service and have made long lasting customers. I have also found that the majority of comic book readers I speak to like to go browse before purchasing. This is bad for the purist but great for spurring extra sales.
Storefront retailers encounter their share of problems in flaky customers and the “babysitting” service some parents mistakenly think they provide. They also have to keep a good faith that their customers will purchase what they ordered in Previews or have on their pull list. We have one customer in town who has been blackballed on most of the East side of Washington for special ordering thousands of dollars of manga and comic statues and books and never picking them up. I know these folks exist, and they are just waiting for a new shop to open to try and dupe the new guy or girl on the block.
I think there is also a market segment that appreciated the expediency of the internet experience. Order it and it shows up on the doorstep. Nice. Concerns that the handling of the credit or debit card is secure may detract but for others it makes the ease of purchase one step better then trying to write a check every week at the local store.
Okay, enough rambling from me on this topic. I would love to hear your thoughts. Mortar and brick versus online? Is there an extinction factor or will customers always maintain a loyalty? Let’s talk.