Economist: “Showrooming” impacts businesses, both big and small

GREEN BAY – Cheryl Paulson doesn’t know much about fixing video cameras. That’s why she came to Camera Corner Connecting Point in downtown Green Bay for some help.

“They really know what they’re doing and that it’s more of a personal feeling,” said Paulson, who lives in Crivitz. “Not like you’re just another number in a big chain.”

One big chain – electronics retailer RadioShack – reportedly had an underwhelming holiday season. It plans to close about 1,100 underperforming stores.

The company has not said which stores will be impacted. There are 21 locations throughout northeast Wisconsin, alone.

Another recent electronics victim is – Wisconsin-based American TV. It’s closing all of its stores, citing a rough economy.

But are there other factors?

Well, experts say the way we shop may be partly to blame – it’s called “showrooming.”

That’s where shoppers use brick-and-mortar stores to try out products, but end up buying the products online, for less.

“If they’re going to grab the traffic that otherwise is on the net, in the cloud – if you will,” said Sandy Odorzynski, an economics professor at St. Norbert College, “then they’re going to have to do a better job differentiating themselves.”

Odorzynski says that can often prove difficult for retailers.

While online shopping has revolutionized how people shop, she says its impact has been seen most in the world of electronics.

Especially as the task of shipping large items, to your door, is just as simple as the click of a button.

“While it is true that a lot of people are very price sensitive, and it would make sense to buy it at the cheapest price, there are other considerations. Some people just have a loyalty to buying local.”

“We hope that we give them a good enough reason to want to stay local, with their purchase and the experience,” said Dave Pisani, vice president of strategy and operations with Camera Corner Connecting Point.

Pisani says having served the Green Bay community for more than 60 years keeps customers coming in. However, he says “showrooming” is just part of doing business in an electronic world.

“We do see that,” Pisani said.

But the key to winning in an online shopping world, he says, is providing a service better than anyone else.

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