Almost all news coverage surrounding the demise of retail paints physical stores as the victim of online shopping. Rarely are they criticised for what they offer and their inability to compete with their virtual counterparts, but a simple shopping trip today made my wife and I understand what is going on and why the retailers should accept a lot of the blame for their own demise.
Here is a simple story about a quick shopping trip we had to make this morning-
I needed to send two parcels so I visited our local WH Smith store which has (sadly) taken over the Post Office. There was one person working in the store and none of the self-service machines were working- all four were turned off. There was a queue of more than 20 people waiting for the single employee to help, but I decided to wait and 20 minutes later my parcels were sent. In this instance I needed to visit the store to send the parcels so my choices were limited.
We then visited the TK Maxx store and after my wife had found a couple of items she wanted we proceeded to the service desk. I counted 15 people waiting and two people serving. We gave up and returned the items after 10 minutes of little movement.
Finally, my wife found two items in Boots where there was not a single person at the main customer service desk. There were three self-service machines (only one was working) and the queues were growing all of the time. While we waited I used my iPhone camera to scan both items and Amazon could deliver them tomorrow with a saving of just over £6. Boots gave me the time and opportunity to go elsewhere and so we put the items back and left.
It seems to me that many retailers, particularly the bigger players, and struggling against the online retailers and so are having to reduce their staff numbers. And when they do this the experience becomes frustrating for the shopper and they end up buying even more online. They are helping to kill off their own sector by providing an experience which only makes online shopping feel even more seamless.