A specialty food retailer in Brisbane has begun charging tyrekickers and showroomers a just looking fee, spurred by sales lost to online sellers.
A Brisbane-based bricks and mortar specialty foods retailer is joining an ever-increasing list of retailers to charge consumers for service upon walking into the store.
The story first hit when Reddit user BarrettFox posted an image of a sign announcing the $5 “just looking” fee in the store’s window. The sign also clearly states that the fee is deducted from the final purchasing price – should the consumer end up buying anything.
The shop owner, who did not want to be identified (but whose shop has been named elsewhere), welcomed an interview from Power Retail, confirming that she had made the decision to charge browsing customers as a direct result of showrooming.
“I’m a small business owner selling specialty food products, it’s not like it is a simple procedure to take this business online,” the store owner explains. “We have a website and we do sell some products, but most food products don’t take kindly to being left on a customer’s doorstep in the Australian sun.”
Citing increasing competition from much larger retailers, whether they are online or the big supermarkets, the store owner found she was being used more for her excellent knowledge of dietary requirements and alternative foods than she was for her product.
“I’m personally interacting with customers on the shop floor every day,” she says. “I’ve spent up to 2.5 hours advising some customers – many come in having already searched online and only become increasingly confused about what they need. My store is the place they go to unravel the mess. Surely that’s worth at least five dollars for my time and expertise.”
While it seems like an unlikely strategy, it’s not the first time we’ve seen bricks and mortar stores pushing back against the lure of online shopping in this way, with electronics stores, fashion retailers and even ski hire stores all introducing similar restrictions in the past two years.
However, even the no-nonsense attitude of this particular store owner can encompass an acceptance of online as a potentially beneficial channel.
“I don’t have a problem with online sales – I think there’s definitely a place for them,” she says. “But food-based websites in Australia don’t include the kind of detail regarding ingredients that I provide my customers with, because it’s too costly an exercise. Well now, I’m finding it a costly exercise to provide that information free of charge, and it isn’t like the manufacturers have begun paying small retailers to promote their products – a dream situation.”
And if you think charging customers a measly five dollars for potentially life-changing advice is bad, then maybe you won’t want to hear about Vera Wang’s Shanghai outlet, where they’re apparently charging customers $500 just to try a dress on.