Showrooming – it’s when people ‘try out’ merchandise in store and then buy it online for a cheaper price – and Nelson retailers are saying it’s a growing problem, costing them both their time and money.
Clothing, shoes and books are just a few of the items that ‘showroomers’ try out offline, before they snap it up online at bargain prices. Last month, Nelson Weekly reported that Nelsonians spend more online than buyers anywhere else in the country, so it comes as no surprise that it’s occurring in the region.
Chris Kirby, owner of Cheapskates Nelson says showrooming costs his store around $500 a day.
“It’s a generation thing,” he says. “People are more confident shopping online – all they need to do is click a button.”
He says that they “blatantly” get their phones out in his store to compare prices to online clothing websites, or photograph the QR codes. He has even had people come in trying to swap shoes they’ve brought online and been disgruntled that they won’t oblige.
“What people need to realise is that our staff spend valuable time on these customers who don’t end up buying anything,” he says. “We know who’s doing it around Nelson, and the retailers do talk to each other.”
Chris says they have tried to combat the issue by setting up an online shop, and have moved to only selling snowboarding gear online, as fitting it in-store was taking up too much staff time.
They also use a loyalty system, where shoppers can get discounts after so many purchases.
Chris also notes that if the proposed GST is added to online purchases, it will bring a more even playing field.
Showrooming has also been a problem for other shops in the city, including shoe store Soul and Maraposa.
Owner Tracey Brignole says it’s a “big issue” for them, and has forced them into implementing a $20 fitting charge for regular showroomers.
Another Nelson retailer, Avery Dash, owner and founder of Possibilities, says that showrooming is also a big problem in his alternative book and gift shop.
“It mostly happens with books – people come in and treat them roughly and take a picture of the back or the front,” he says. “I’m quite strict, so if I see them taking a photo I go over and ask them why, tell them to delete the photo and to leave.”
“Not only does it take up the shopkeeper’s time, but it also wears out the items. People need to be made aware that if they lose these shops, they lose the expertise.”