With each passing year, Amazon gains a stronger grip on holiday shopping, and traditional storefronts begin to lose their foothold. Unfortunately, the excitement surrounding online shopping services has caused Americans to take an extremely important luxury for granted – having options.
Competition with online retailers has put immense pressure on brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon Prime has grown in popularity, providing subscribers with free two-day shipping, while other subscription services such as “Stitch Fix” (clothing) and “Ipsy” (makeup) deliver packages to customers at set intervals with their purchases for the month.
After an unsatisfying holiday shopping season in 2016, Macy’s initiated its plan to close about 100 of its stores over the next few years, shutting down 68 within the first few months of 2017. This is not unique to Macy’s; other stores are experiencing a push to close locations that are not performing. JP Morgan Equity research analyst Matt Boss expects physical store locations to be cut by a third over the next five to ten years, leading to a storefront purge that is leaving more and more Americans dependent on the internet.
Online shopping has gained popularity for its convenience, allowing consumers to access a wide range of products and vendors quickly and almost effortlessly. With thousands of options readily available to view and compare, shoppers no longer need to wander between stores attempting to locate and determine their best options. This is, however, an optimistic view of online shopping – when gone even slightly awry, the method is no more convenient than visiting a store in person.
One of the major flaws of online shopping is the fact that, unless you have seen an item before, there is really no way to tell what it will be like in person. For those that love surprises, this may not be so bad, though generally the excitement dissipates when an object arrives the day before it is needed but does not suit the user’s purpose or meet their expectations. Reviews are not always present to clear up confusion and online listings can be misleading.
Shopping at physical stores eliminates the ambiguity that accompanies online purchases. Only by trying on the sweater in stores would one know whether or not it is a good fit, if the fabric is comfortable to wear, and if the color is right on target. Trying items on is especially important when it comes to women’s clothing, which is often unexpectedly short, tight or see-through. Though some online retailers allow returns, the process is never as simple or convenient as simply placing the garment back on the rack and returning to the search.
Those who have a hard time leaving their home to go shopping at the mall will find it equally as irritating to head out to the post office to return an item. Anyone who is especially unlucky may find themselves dishing out dollars and putting in effort to pack the item properly and pay for shipping on the return.
Shopping online can also encourage overspending and impulse purchases with its ease and accessibility. Such was the case of Alex Dello, a teenager who charged her mother’s credit card $733 after accidentally purchasing all of the items that she had been wistfully adding to her virtual shopping cart. Though this is both an accident and an extreme case, it proves that shoppers can get a bit carried away on the internet, adding tons of items to their cart on a whim.
In spite of the drawbacks, online shopping can be a great alternative to shopping in stores. However, it is important that the two continue to coexist, as they are each useful in different situations. Though it is the digital age, it would be a mistake to replace physical stores with online retailers – sometimes, it is just better to shop in person.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com