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Shopping Online VS Brick And Mortar


The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a great freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two.

Online shopping vs Brick and mortar

Cyber Monday took place last week, and consumers spent more than 3 billion dollars online, beating out the 2.72 billion spent on Black Friday, which was both in-store and online shopping. Especially during the holiday shopping season, when people are so busy, it seems that the trend continues that many consumers prefer to do their shopping online.

There was a post recently on CNN discussing how Amazon has destroyed Barnes and Noble. Apparently, “Barnes & Noble’s long-term debt tripled from a year ago to $192 million. The company has only $13.4 million in cash … [and] shares of Barnes & Noble are now down nearly 40% this year.” It’s clear that consumers’ love of online shopping, and Amazon’s success, directly correlates to the struggles of other book, music, and movie sellers. Barnes and Noble has some tricks up its sleeve that may help them to avoid the fate of Borders, though, so don’t worry about them dissolving just yet.

Seeing how corporate giants like Amazon effects other (former?) corporate giants like Barnes and Noble makes you wonder just what the Amazon effect has been on smaller mom and pop shops. If empty store fronts where independent bookstores once stood are any indicator, brick and mortar bookstores are going the way of the dodo bird. They will that is unless we actively make a push to give our business to physical stores instead of online shopping. But, should we?

Why I like shopping online

Amazon is my first choice because they have made shopping so easy. I don’t have to leave my home with my two young kids who get cranky when I take them into stores.  I can choose overnight shipping, and my items arrive at my doorstep in the next day or two. It takes a lot of stress out of shopping for things I both want and need.

They also have great prices. For example, the few toys I did decide to get for my kids for Christmas came from Amazon, because they had the lowest price on the items I was looking at buying.

What effect does online shopping have on the economy?

I’m not an economist. I just know that I, like most consumers, am driven by price.  As much as I hate to admit it, the price is and always will be my swaying factor. I know in my head that Amazon has a reputation for shady treatment of their employees, but I, like others, get pulled towards which company offers the lowest price.

There are some family-owned businesses in our small town that I do go out of my way to patronize for gifts and clothes. When it comes to books and movies, though, because of ease of use and price, I’m more likely to just use Amazon.

I recognize that my penchant for shopping online could be the proverbial snowflake in the avalanche that causes workers at other retailers to lose their jobs. Unemployment certainly does no favors for the economy.

That being said, though, an increase in sales through Amazon will mean an increase in other jobs. We might not have as many booksellers, but there has been a surge in delivery jobs. Thousands of seasonal jobs are available over the course of the holidays through both UPS and Fed Ex, further boosting the economy. Those online sales mean more items are shipping, and more items shipping means more shipping jobs. More shipping jobs mean that more lower to mid-level employees have money to pay their mortgage, buy food and gas, and buy holiday gifts.

Finding a balance

Will online shopping from sellers like Amazon be the death of brick and mortar stores? No. Are they negatively affecting mom and pop stores and other book and music stores? Yes, as evidenced by the sliding numbers at Barnes and Noble and the failure of companies like Borders.

Online shopping will end certain jobs and create other new ones. No matter what happens on the job front, consumers will continue to be driven by price, so storefronts need to figure out a creative way to compete with online giants and win back the loyalty of their customers.

As with all things in life, it’s all about finding a balance between the two and not relying too heavily on one or the other. I’m not going to stop online shopping anytime soon, but I will also continue to frequent my favorite brick and mortar stores.

Do you prefer to do your shopping on online? Why or why not?

Online-Shop by Tim Reckmann, on Flickr.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Michelle December 9, 2015, 12:27 am

    I’m mixed. I love shopping online, but I also love the personal aspect and expertise that comes into play when you go into a mom and pop shop.

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:17 am

      I agree. Most of my shopping happens online, but there are occasions where I do want to go and actually see the merchandise before making a decision. When looking for cigars or a new pipe for my father in law for example, I like to actually walk to a specialty store and ask for help.

  • Pennypincher December 9, 2015, 2:24 am

    I remember when Walmart moved in (everywhere!) and many smaller shops were forced shut down. It’s sad to drive through some town and see vacated storefronts. I would think to survive, smaller shops must have to run online businesses in the back of their stores to survive.
    Now I see Amazon’s little delivery vans around town. I’ve heard they even deliver groceries! A massive Amazon distribution center has gone up down the freeway from where I live.
    Many times, you can’t do better than-saving gas, money, your sanity, etc. than shopping online. When you can comparison shop for the best price online, and purchase, all in about 10 minutes time, you cannot do better than that! My favorites are Beach Camera for electronics, etc. and Petco for dog food, they even give me money back-love that! Retail has always been a cut throat business. As for employees being treated poorly, many companies are guilty of that today. Illegal no, unethical yes. A lot of dirty hiring/firing practices out there. Each state’s Employment Security Department hear all the complaints of that from people filing for unemployment.
    I still like visiting Barnes and Noble. And love the library for saving buck$ even better.

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:21 am

      Online business is absolutely essential for smaller stores to survive. If you don’t have an online presence as a business owner, you’ll lose out to customers who might have come to your store or bought from you online. I know I get annoyed when small businesses don’t have an easily navigatable website.

  • Maria December 9, 2015, 2:44 am

    I love shopping on line while listening to instrumental holiday jazz music in the cozy comfort of my home. In Jan. 2015 my Credit Card company gave me a free subscription to Amazon Prime . Within a month, I was hooked on 2 day free shipping and so many choices of Prime Movies, T V Series and Music included for free with my Prime Membership. I binged on all six seasons of Downtown Abbey, all seasons of Vikings , all six seasons of Suits and the Sopranos. I plan to renew my Prime membership for $100 and will shop on line for all birthday, baby, wedding, graduation, Mother and Father’s Day and holiday gifts. This means I will shop on line 75% of the time. I will shop in stores for food, clothes, shoes and miscellaneous items 25% of the time. I am curious do you have a Prime Membership with Amazon? I think it is better than paying for Netflix and Hulu and way more versatile . I do plan to research the Amazon Pantry after the holidays since I hear it is also a great deal.

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:26 am

      I do have Amazon Prime. It has easily paid for itself by now. We renew our membership every year. I’m pretty frugal, but Amazon Prime is the one thing I’m not willing to part with. We live in a rural area and our shopping choices are pretty limited, so online shopping with free shipping gives us more options. We also don’t pay for TV, so Amazon prime shows are how we get our mindless entertainment when we decide to watch a show.

  • Clarisse @ Reach Financial Independence December 9, 2015, 2:48 am

    I’m a big fan of online shopping, but I love to go to the mall too! I ordered some gadgets online because it’s lesser compared to malls.

    • Pennypincher December 9, 2015, 5:08 am

      Yes, you can’t beat the people watching at the mall. Nice atmosphere, pleasant, upbeat music, perfect climate. And it’s free!

      • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:28 am

        When I lived closer to the city, the mall was a good option for saving money because it had outlets and closeout stores with competitive prices, but now our nearest mall is an hour away.

  • Money Beagle December 9, 2015, 6:01 am

    I love shopping online but there are things you need to get at the store, not to mention actually being able to see things in person. Clothes shopping is very difficult with every store having different interpretations of sizes, so I simply can’t see online taking over in this area, as an example.

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:31 am

      Clothes shopping and shoe shopping are two niches of the market that will most likely always be able to survive. I know I like to try shoes on before making a purchase. Although, I have gone and tried shoes on in a store to find the right fit, then I buy that brand and size online where I can save money. So, who knows if they’ll be able to withstand the change in shopping trends? Time will tell, surely.

  • freebird December 9, 2015, 8:00 am

    What’s interesting is how some retailers suffer more from online competition than others. Like book/music shops, department stores, and movie theaters have all been hit hard. But restaurants, amusement parks, and the souvenir stands at ballgames are still booming, internet or not. What the losers are missing is that they don’t understand their business– it’s not about moving merchandise, it’s about providing entertainment. I think most people would rather go out than sit in front of their computer all day, although only under the right conditions. Once people are enthralled, their purses loosen.

    Unfortunately it won’t be easy for physical stores to claw their way back. Decades ago just having a wide variety of merchandise on display during a time of fast-rising income was enough of a thrill by itself, but over the years the consumer has become jaded and incomes have stalled so some other push is needed. One approach would be to identify the distinctive features of those social media concepts that have exploded in popularity and find a way to incorporate these ideas into the shopping experience. Like maybe steal a page from Facebook and direct a live feed from those store security cameras online so people can broadcast their purchasing to the world. Not that anyone is watching (or cares) but in the customer’s mind they’re the star!

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:33 am

      You’re spot on with your comment. I think it really does boil down to the entertainment factor.

  • Justin December 9, 2015, 8:23 am

    I generally dislike shopping, but online shopping makes it a much more pleasurable and accessible experience. I can comparison shop in terms of getting the best price and best quality since there are thousands of reviews. I can shop at my convenience, not just when the store is open and isn’t too busy. I don’t have to deal with minimum wage retail workers that sometimes don’t know how to do their jobs. If something is out of stock, that’s okay because I can buy it later.

    I shop at amazon a lot because they tend to have the best prices and customer service is usually very rad. And if something goes wrong, a quick call, email or online chat session usually corrects the problem. Try going somewhere like Target or Walmart and having a problem. You get to stand in a long line at customer service and the arbiter of justice (that earns minimum wage and has been standing on their feet all day!) does right by you.

    No thanks, I’ll stick with online shopping when possible!

    • Kristi December 9, 2015, 8:36 am

      I hate dealing with snarky customer service workers who obviously don’t care enough to do their job well. It’s one of the biggest benefits of shopping online. Amazon has always been quick to fix any problems in a fair and efficient manner.

  • Chuck December 9, 2015, 10:15 am

    I really can’t stand going to malls, but we do like to shop at locally owned shops when possible. For Christmas, most of the gifts come from Amazon due to the convenience and price. I’m also able to use Chase points to help offset the cost of Christmas gifts so that’s a bonus!

  • Mike H. December 9, 2015, 11:18 am

    As an economist, I see a very simple trend here. Stores that are extremely good at offering an efficient shopping process are doing well. Stores that are extremely good at offering an entertaining or expertise-based shopping process are doing well. The average retail outlets are dying because they are, well, average.

    The advantage of online shopping are two: 1) convenience, and 2) less gamesmanship. A lot of stores’ profits is based on the peripherals: they might not make a profit on the couch you buy, but the 2-year fabric protection plan they always try to sell you will line their pockets. Take that away, and the store folds.

  • Melissa December 9, 2015, 2:43 pm

    I like avoiding crowds and the literal endless options of online shopping, but I can’t give up the experience of some of my favorite locally owned shops – so like others have said, I think it comes down to the entertainment/ambiance aspect.

  • Mom December 10, 2015, 8:30 am

    I prefer shopping online for almost everything except clothes (but once I find something I like, I repeatedly buy those same styles online) – oh yeah, and groceries. I hate crowds, I don’t like rude customer service, and I like taking my time to shop – all difficult to do in a store. With online, I can send a quick link to the husband about whether a specific toy/item will work well – not so easy to do unless he’s in the store with me (which never happens!).
    I don’t see an issue with online stores closing local shops – if a company provides what customers want, and continues to do that as those wants change, then they’re still in business.

  • Stockbeard December 10, 2015, 12:20 pm

    I’ve always hated shopping for as long as I can remember, and online shopping has had me since day 1. With improvements on the online experience, I shop more than ever before, so if you look at the global picture, I’m not sure more online shopping is impacting the economy negatively.
    Look at the number of “mom & pop” shops doing business online through eBay or Amazon.

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