It’s no secret in Australia that a lot of businesses are struggling and ultimately failing in the face of competition from online retailers. Some recent victims include Allans and Billy Hyde, the Sandringham Hotel (Sydney), Nine Entertainment, and Collins Booksellers.
Aidan and I walked into Mindgames in the city the other day. It’s a great shop, with a lot of fantastic games. I love being able to go in there and talk to a staff member and browse shelves. I love that real games shops exist. But I also know that if I want to actually buy any of the more expensive games, I’ll probably end up buying them from Amazon.com. Even including shipping to Australia, it’s still cheaper to buy from the US.
The same goes for books. I love a good bookshop. Not that many seem to exist anymore. I love browsing, I love coming across something unexpected, I love the feel and the smell of a bookshop. But I buy a lot of books from bookdepository.co.uk. They’re really cheap, they’ve got great customer service, and their shipping is free.
I am part of the problem for bricks and mortar retail. Like most Australians, price is my bottom dollar. A recent study showed that Australians are more concerned with price than with value – that is, we’ll buy something cheap even if we know it’s also crap. I don’t go that far; I still prefer a quality product if I can get it. But I prefer it at a reasonable price.
The fact is, Australian consumers are becoming aware of how much we have been overcharged for almost everything for many years. With no good reason, goods are considerably more expensive here than they are in many other countries. And with the internet so readily accessible, we are turning to overseas retailers and online shops in desperation. It is telling that many things are cheaper from overseas even with the freight costs factored in.
So as much as I’d love to support the shops, to ensure my own future ability to walk in and ask a staff member something, to browse, it just isn’t financially feasible. I need those shops to meet me halfway, to be competitive and accessible.