Stores take the hit from online buyers

By Michael Promes Columnist

A few weeks ago, while spending time in Sioux Falls, a friend and I went on a journey into Best Buy, an electronic store known for its wide variety of electronics and entertainment. Best Buy has long been a favorite store of mine and one that I have guiltily spent too much money in — all to appease my inner computer nerd. However, on this particular occasion, I was slightly shocked.

Being a guitarist, I usually head right for the musical instrument section of the store to see what kind of sales they might be offering. As I walked into the instrument nook of the building I was met by “50 percent off” sales and bare walls where high-end guitars used to hang. It looked as if someone had come into the store and just taken most of the nice instruments and equipment. Naturally, I had the urge to buy something at the ridiculously cheap price that Best Buy was offering, but the sparse funds in my wallet said otherwise.

I then went in search of a CD, which was my real intention of going to the store. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a single copy of the relatively new CD that I wanted. However, I found a great John Mayer album that I had wanted to buy for a while. The best part of the trip was that the CD cost three dollars less than it had ever cost, and there were no signs of a sale of any kind on music. I was excited.

As I left the store, I discussed my experience with my friend and we both noticed that our beloved Best Buy seemed unusually lackluster compared to when we were younger. I did some research and found that Best Buy stores are actually losing money. But how can this be in a world where electronics are so prominent and technology is rapidly growing? The culprit, surprisingly enough, is technology itself: the Internet.

While store sales are going down, Internet sales are going up. People nowadays are so attracted by the convenience of Internet shopping that stores are starting to suffer.

Best Buy especially has started to become what is known as a “showroom store.” Customers will go to the store, look at the product that they are interested in, try it out, and go home and purchase that very product on the Internet. The customer may have found a better price online and may even be enticed by the idea that their product can be shipped right to their front door. They look, touch, try and then go buy it somewhere else. This hurts the store’s sales numbers because they are not getting the sales that they honestly deserve.

While I am the kind of guy who likes to physically hold the object that I am going to buy, I have done my share of online shopping, and I am guilty of looking at something in the store and then leaving to buy it online (I actually spent more money buying it online, due to shipping costs). I am not condemning online shopping by any means. In fact, I think it’s one of the coolest things that people have developed. However, if consumers want to continue to be able to look at the product in store and try it out, they have to make sure the store can survive.

While emptying your wallets into retail stores is not a good idea, it is smart to buy what you want to buy — especially after you try it out in the store. This will prove to the company that their stores are actually serving their purpose, which can lead them to continue to properly stock their shelves with products and can avoid liquidation of their products or departments so that we (the consumers) can continue to enjoy going out and shopping for the things that we want to buy.


Michael Promes is a sophomore majoring in business economics. He can be emailed at [email protected].