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Buying Cameras Online vs. In-Store: Why Showrooming is Hurting Your Local Shops

Have you ever seen something you wanted in a shop, tried it out, checked the price online on your smartphone, found it cheaper, and walked out? Welcome to the world of “showrooming.” A stark reminder of this issue could be seen in the British camera chain Jessops, which placed a sign in their shop window shortly after going into administration: “The staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon.”

The True Value of Local Camera Stores

As someone who regularly shops for cameras, I cannot stress enough the importance of supporting your local camera stores. The value you get from them goes beyond just the purchase. If I visit a store and the salesperson dedicates their time to help me choose, I make it a point to buy from them. It’s not just about the transaction; it’s about recognizing the value of their expertise and time.

Take my experience, for instance. I’ve bought numerous cameras and lenses from my local store. Could I find them cheaper online? Probably. But by purchasing locally, I know that if there’s an issue and I need to claim a warranty repair, my retailer will advocate for me with the manufacturer. Online sellers, on the other hand, often lack this level of service and may not have a relationship with the manufacturer to resolve issues efficiently.

The Moral Case for Buying Locally

For me, buying from my local camera store is a moral decision. When I wanted to buy a flash for my Leica Ms and had no idea how to use it or set it up with my camera, Steve, a salesperson at my local store, spent 30 minutes showing me different flash units. He set them up on my camera, gave me a lesson on configuring each one, and explained the benefits of each choice. This kind of personalized service is invaluable. I could have walked out and bought the flash online for a bit less, but I didn’t. My purchase was not just for the flash but also for the lesson Steve gave me.

By buying locally, I supported my store, trusted that they gave me the best possible price, and felt good about my purchase. If I ever have a technical issue, I know Steve will sort it out with the manufacturer. This is a level of service and trust that online retailers can’t match.

The Impact of Showrooming

Showrooming is a growing problem for brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s not illegal, but it destroys livelihoods. Physical stores have to pay rent, bills, and staff salaries. Online retailers can offer cheaper prices because they don’t have these overheads.

Gadget stores, bookshops, and cosmetics retailers are all losing sales to showroomers. According to a BBC report, a customer from Birmingham admits she sometimes spends over £200 in a single shopping trip without making a purchase, preferring to find the items online for less. This behaviour, while not illegal, is deeply harmful to local businesses.

The Moral Consequences of Showrooming

Think about the impact you are having on people’s lives when you showroom. Consider the sign at Jessops: “The staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon.” This sign was a dry reaction to a serious problem. If too many customers showroom, physical shops may disappear altogether, leaving online retailers with fewer competitors and potentially higher prices in the long run.

In 2013, the owner of Celiac Supplies in Coorparoo, took a controversial step to combat showrooming by charging customers $5 for browsing. This may seem extreme, but it highlights a real problem: people come in, seek her advice, then take their business elsewhere.

Support Your Local Camera Store

When you showroom, you might save a bit of money, but you’re taking away from the livelihood of people who work in these stores. Local camera stores provide invaluable services, from expert advice to hands-on help. By buying from them, you’re not just purchasing a product; you’re supporting a community and ensuring these stores can continue to operate.

So, next time you find yourself in a camera store, remember the value they offer. Make your purchase there, support your local workers, and keep the tax on your purchase within your country. You’ll feel better about your purchase, and you’ll be doing your part to help your community thrive.

Showrooming is a damaging practice that threatens the existence of brick-and-mortar stores. By choosing to buy locally, you’re not only ensuring better service and support but also contributing to the sustainability of local businesses. Let’s recognize the value of our local camera stores and make conscious decisions to support them.

Think about the impact you are having on people’s lives when you showroom: “The staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon” read the sign in a shop window shortly after the British camera chain went into administration. Could you live with how you may have abused their time?

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