As a foot soldier and occasional general in the army of IT professionals who are moving trade on-line I occasionally worry about the death of the high street. HMV and Woolworths have gone and now Comet is in difficulty.
The problem is that that shops offer both a discovery and transaction service but customers only pay for the transaction. Users can browse the goods and compare them without paying and I suspect that many don’t. They simply decide on the item they want and then buy it on-line from a transaction only retailer.
One solution is to “John Lewisize” your goods. That is to sell vast amounts of quality own brand goods where possible and customised versions where own brand won’t work. John Lewis is “never knowingly undersold” but try doing a price comparison when the stock code is a John Lewis special.
So I was both pleased and saddened when I purchased a bed today from Sleepmasters. The charming sales assistant found me the perfect bed. It was a Sealy model so I checked it out on-line but Sleepmaster have done a good job. It is not possible to work out which Sealy model it is and hence I paid the asking price rather than buying it off the internet.
I got the certainty of comfy bed, the sales assistant got paid and the high street store lived to trade another day.