Going into Black Friday, there has been a lot of talk that retail is dead and that online buying, Cyber Monday and mobile purchases have replaced the real retail experience.
It is certainly true that you can buy anything online these days. But is the cheapest price always the best answer?
A lifelong buddy of mine runs a specialty surf shop, East of Maui. I know that if I want anything boardsport related, I can go to Mark and he would hook me up with the right equipment. That customer focused expertise is something that small business always have offered over big box retailers and Amazon. I am a believer and customer of #SmallBusinessSaturday.
I have always been of the opinion that I would never buy a specialty sports item from stores like Dick’s, Sports Authority or Bass Pro Shops. For example, if I was looking for quality golf equipment I would go to my Golf Pro Shop or a store like Golfdom rather than purchase from the big guys. My reasoning comes down to the quality of information, the expertise of the sales staff and the fact that they have used or experienced the product or service I am purchasing.
But just because you are big doesn’t mean that you can’t be good.
Recently I had a great retail experience from what I would describe as one of those big box retailers: REI. REI is the self-described “leading national outdoor retail co-op.” They offer a huge inventory of high quality products for the discerning outdoor enthusiast. But what clearly separated this “sporting goods store” from every other was the quality and knowledge of their sales staff.
Professional testimony is something that online buying can’t replace. The ability to hold a backpack, have the features demonstrated, explained and fitted by someone who has actually done a hike on the Pacific Coast Trail is not something offered by Amazon.
The fact is that in this age of crowd sourcing and customer ratings, there is nothing as good as a great product demo. And whether you are buying camping equipment or snow boards, azaleas or diamonds the ability to speak with a live subject matter expert will trump any black Friday deal.