American bricks and mortar shoe retailers are crying foul over showrooming customers who walk into store to find their best fit, before purchasing online.
First we had showrooming. More recently, a study out of the US coined the term webrooming. Now the realm of niche retail jargon has been taken a step further with ‘fit-lifting’ – the act of using a physical apparel or footwear store to discover your ideal size, before purchasing a like garment online.
The practice is no doubt common, however it is beginning to cause serious concern for US footwear retailers, says the Financial Times.
“You’ve come in and stolen that service basically,” said Richard Napier of Idaho Mountain Trading. “It’s not that the salesperson didn’t have somebody else to serve who would have bought something. So not only have you stolen the wages. I have a loss of revenue that he would have collected from another customer.”
The phenomenon has been so bad for business in Australia that several companies are already reportedly taking action, such as the case of the ski-hire store that charges for fittings, or the health foods store that charges a ‘browsing fee’ to ward off tyre kickers.
In the US, however, the problem is compounded due to the rigid social code embedded into retail culture. The American retailers would like to do something about ‘fit-lifters’, but as yet they simply can’t conceive of what to do about them.
Gary Weiner, Owner of Saxon Shoes in Virginia and board member of the National Shoe Retailers Association, was also interviewed by the Financial Times. Weiner attempted an explanation of the situation.
“We also hear ‘My mother sent me in to get my size fitted so she can buy them online’. Those exact words. We’re a polite people. So we give them the time of day.”
Weiner was asked if he had ever considered refusing to fit someone and replied, “We think about it every single time. Do we say it? No. You can’t say it aloud.”
By now, the availability of products online means that most people will have some experience with showrooming and ‘fit-lifting’ alike. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that it occurs to such an extent, however it’s certainly worth noting that Australian brick and mortar retailers have so far been more willing to develop methods to counteract it.
The value of turning customers away, or charging them to try on, remains to be proven. Perhaps the American ‘say nothing, do nothing’ approach will one day be justified.