Buy Local?

The tale of two retailers.

In Hobart at the intersection of Elizabeth and Melville streets on diagonally opposite corners are two retailers almost as opposed diametrically as they are geometrically.

One is Ken Self Cycles possibly the best bike shop in Hobart, the other is McCann Bros, certainly the largest music shop in the same turf. Both hold fascination for me.

Now if you venture in to Ken Self Cycles you will find a small, crowded shop lined with bicycle Heaven, staff who seem to know what they are talking about and most importantly prices that are not an insult. This retailer gets that there IS an Internet and customers CAN shop around. By staying competitive and still offering service they stay in business. I recently bought a mounting case for the iPhone there at exactly the same price as I could get it online. My grips, tights (lycra fetish) and the few other minor things I've bought all priced sensibly so as not to scare me off.

Across the intersection the story is quite different. The McCann Bros adhere to the same school of retail as my former boss of a hundred years ago, Captain Beaky. (aka Nigel of Sandy Bay HiFi) This guy never sold anything at a loss. If he paid $500 for an amp, it was priced at $1000 and it stayed on the shelf until someone was prepared to pay that. So years later, out of warranty, out of fashion and worthless, he packed that amp up and moved it to his house when he went broke and closed the doors. And now he wants $1100 for it on Ebay (gotta cover the Ebay costs!) and he'll never get that.

So I've lusted after several items at McCann Bros, but the massive premium price has meant I bought these items online or in Melbourne. $200 extra on a $200 item is NOT freight, it's rip-off. Refusal to bargain, see reason and accept cold hard currency is not going to get you the sale, boys.

I'm Ok at maths. I can add freight costs to an advertised price and figure out my total spend. Further to that I can understand that local stock, service and shop front is worth something to me. Less and less as the Internet provides most of the information and my need for a knowledgable salesperson diminishes. But there is a value on that too.

In the old days there were two main methods to sell things at inflated prices. We practiced them both at the HiFi shop. The easy way was FUD - Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt. In those days the enemy (that would be the competition to you) was The Green Guide. A supplement in The Age newspaper actually printed on green paper. It held a few scant articles on HiFi (and later computers) but mostly it was ads from Melbourne shops for lust worthy items. Typically the ads were mostly columns of prices, there were rarely any photos or details. This was a market place for buyers, not a recommendation engine.

So how did we sell the same item in Sandy Bay for more cash? Considerably more cash in fact. We played on the unknown. "Oh who's going to do the warranty?" "How do you know it will actually turn up?" "Often they substitute for cheaper products" and so on. Lots of FUD sown in the minds of the buyer rude enough to compare our prices to those of this green rag.

I said there was another method. This was slightly harder. This was actual selling skills. Provide customer service, concentrate on the total package. Provide good advice, demonstrations, installation, after sales service and never mention the competition. Sell your product. An ancient art, now long gone I confess, but an art never the less.

Regrettably, McCann Bros don't use either technique and so have yet to acquire a single dollar from me.