celiac-store

We’ve all been guilty of evaluating goods at a brick-and-mortar store, only to purchase the products online. For shoppers, it makes sense to do some homework and perform some price comparisons before we buy. Unfortunately that’s no comfort for store owners who feel taken advantage of as they get trampled in the rush for e-commerce.

Well, there’s at least one store near Brisbane, Australia that isn’t taking it anymore. Celiac Supplies in Coorparoo is charging customers $5 just for window shopping. The grocery store, which sells gluten or dairy free goods to people with Celiac disease and other dietary restrictions, charges the fee to anyone who “just looks,” but then deducts the amount from shopping totals, to distinguish bona fide customers.

The policy came about because Georgina, the owner, is agog at how many patrons come in to pick her brain or peruse the aisles, and then buy the products elsewhere. And so, she drafted the policy and posted a sign in her window.

justlookingfee

Georgina’s frustration is understandable. But sadly for her, her troubles might just be beginning.

The immediate gratification of buying and getting products quickly (and with no shipping) are one of the last few major benefits that physical retailers have over e-commerce sites. But e-tailers are wise to that, and they’re increasingly looking at ways to bust through it — including installing convenience lockers, sending other customers out to deliver goods, and anything else that can enable fast and/or free delivery for online goods.

In other words, Georgina needs to brace herself. The competition is only going to get fiercer. And she needs to realize that, for now, she has a big advantage: People are still coming into her store, for whatever reason that may be. She and other proprietors in her position could connect with these folks, foster a community, and offer information and education that helps them as well as her business. She could, and should, add value to the customer experience that no Amazon or Walmart.com could touch. Unfortunately, she probably won’t. Georgina has made her point of view pretty obvious, stating that she is “not a charity” and “not doing a community service.”

Girl, if you’re out there, listen up: The retail business is changing. You can’t just stock your shelves, throw open the doors and expect people to line up in front of your cash wrap. Those days are over, and alienating potential patrons isn’t going to save your business — not unless that whopping $20 in fees you’ve collected to date stretches awfully far.

Whether this one store owner ever gets it or not, one thing’s for sure: Retailers are freaked. And that means consumers could very well see signs like this spring up in more windows.