Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Amazonian Problem for Retailers

I have learned so many things about the world this year. A lot about politics, business and how I feel about certain issues. One of the most eye opening things I have become privy to is the fact Amazon isn't the great friend I thought it was. Sorry if you were expecting it to be something more profound. (Insert wink here - haha!) Believe it or not, in my world, it is quite a big deal! In any case, I have never used Amazon all that much. Mostly, I buy books from them, because I am old-fashioned that way and I like an actual book. Occasionally I will go to them for items I can't find in a store. Still, I used to think they were great - who doesn't love free shipping, afterall?! But then I started hearing what they are doing to our retail friends, and I realized they really don't care about me or anyone else. They don't care about anything except making more and more money.

I first heard about this problem from a local store that was talking about their cowboy boots with Brady. I guess I was a bit naive, and I didn't know what people have been doing. The younger generation, the ones who have been raised on Amazon, will come into his store, try his boots on, take a picture of HIS BOOTS, and promptly go to their computer or phone to order the same exact boots on Amazon to save ten or so bucks. How sad is that? Amazon is undercutting everyone - the dealer, the vendor, the sales rep and everyone in between. And they do it all without most people even realizing it.

So many stores have closed their doors recently. Talk about sad! There are too many regulations, for sure. But more than anything, people just aren't coming in and spending their money in stores. Centerville in Milwaukie? Gone. HAV Western Boots closed one of their locations in Spokane. Lake Creek General Store down in Eagle Point, done. Flat Iron Tack in Myrtle Point, closed. These are just a handful of little country stores that have recently gone under. I am sure there are many mainstream stores struggling to compete with Amazon, as well. It is a very sad situation, to say the least, and deserves some thought.

Lucky for Brady, his company is doing something to help their retailers out. They have listened to their stores and a couple of months ago, Justin Brands stopped selling to Amazon. This is great news for stores who are trying to sell boots! Birkenstock also did this, before Justin Brands, actually. Both companies are, of course, taking a huge financial hit, but hopefully it will serve them well in the long run. At least they actually care about their stores.

Seriously, have you been in an actual store, lately? Most that I have been in are stuffed to the brim with product! Personally, I love shopping in a store. It is one of my favorite things to do. I like to see how things look in person and to feel the quality or lack of quality, whatever it may be. I also love searching for a deal - that is almost an addiction for me. Now that I am going into more stores as a sales rep, it has become a bit of a problem for me to control my shopping impulses. I have to force myself not to shop! The fact that I understand and see first hand what Amazon is doing to retailers has changed my perspective - I will only buy something online if it is an item I can't find anywhere else. I have changed my ways - no more undercutting the local guy for this family. Brady and I want our kids to learn how to spend their money wisely, yes, that is true. But we also want them to learn about loyalty and appreciation for small businesses and even big businesses. And besides that, shopping is fun! I also love shopping online boutiques, which is pretty close to an actual store. If it is a small business, then we are all about supporting them.

So as we all gear up for Christmas, and if you like your brick and mortar stores? You should shop there. Because if you don't, they may no longer be there. Seriously! I don't like to preach, but I wanted to share this because many people just don't know - Amazon is truly ruining the retail world. If more people don't start shopping at their local stores, there will ONLY be Amazon to shop from in the future. And then the prices will be whatever they want them to be. And all those "good deals" will be gone.

We are lucky to have some AMAZING stores right here in the Pacific Northwest. The buyer from The Grange Co-Op has incredible taste! We stopped at the Yuba City store in California a few weeks ago, and Brailey and I were drooling over her product. We felt like we were in Texas! They also have locations in Medford, White City, Coos Bay, Klamath Falls and Grants Pass. Gypsy Crossing is another one of my favorites! Talk about FUN - it is a boutique inside Ace Hardware - a store in a store! Painted Zebra is a boutique that I love so much, I actually became friends with the buyer just from stopping there - she is in North Bend and also has a mobile boutique she takes to different events. Country Farms and Ranch Supplies in Saginaw/Creswell is a hidden gem in the feed store world - they have the most darling treasures you will ever find! Double H Western Wear up in Salem is the largest western store in the northwest - super cool store! Coastal and Wilco are both great places to shop. Union Mills up in Mulino is a jewel of a store - they have an amazing selection of items. I've heard Rachelle M. Rustic House of Fashion, a new store in Eugene, is absolutely to die for - I can't wait to go check them out. Yes, these are mostly on the western side of things, but that's the industry that is closest to my heart. If it is a brick and mortar store, then I say take the time to check them out. A store is a store, no matter how small or big they may be.

Much like saving the whales, let's save small businesses - shop from them as much as you can. You will get much better customer service and you will feel happier knowing you are helping a real family with bills just like you. Likewise, save the big stores like Coastal and Wilco. They are feeding people's families. Go to the mall - it's fun! Malls are closing across the nation. Let's try to change that trend. We have so many wonderful stores who have to pay rent on top of all their expenses. As you do your shopping, keep the brick and mortar stores in mind, and save the future of our retail world. If you can, leave Amazon as a last resort.

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