Online shopping: brave new world or technical nightmare?

Allan Johnson of Johnson & Tennent Chartered Accountants
Allan Johnson of Johnson & Tennent Chartered Accountants Janie Kayes

WHAT'S the big deal with online shopping?

Clearly, quite a lot if you listen to the promoters of Click Frenzy. In case you've been living under a digital rock, today marks a fortnight since the much-hyped 'Sale That Stops a Nation'.

Unfortunately, all it stopped was their servers. Click Frenzy quickly became infamous for being too popular, as angry online shoppers became frustrated and switched to alternative online shopping venues.

But what is the big deal? Bricks-and-mortar retailers would suggest that this is merely another example of the death of traditional in-store shopping...and they would suggest that this is a new phenomenon.

In exactly three weeks and one day, retailers will be bracing themselves for their own Click Frenzy event, commonly known as Boxing Day sales. Once again, there will be severe congestion at the entrance to the store, and while there may not be an electronic breakdown, we've all seen the less-nimble shoppers come off second best!

America's Black Friday is another example of attempts by retailers to orchestrate significant retail sales by having a massive, well-publicised event.

Now, I'm not into shopping, so you may wonder why this is even a consideration for me. Let me tell you a story...

I recently found myself in Sydney with three hours to spare. As my last pair of work shoes had just blown out, I decided to venture into a large department store and find myself a replacement pair. As is typical of a male, this was over very quickly and I was still left with two and a half hours to contemplate that experience!

It occurred to me that the transaction that had just taken place was, for a Rockhampton shoe store, the equivalent of me buying online. I am sure that many readers have purchased items that could have been bought at a local store while they have been visiting larger cities, whether on holidays or business. How many out-of-town people will be participating in Boxing Day sales in Brisbane (as I'm told it's the place to be!)?

To me, online shopping is merely an extension of the age-old problem of out-shopping - where people from Yeppoon shop in Rockhampton, and people from Rockhampton shop in Brisbane or travel to Myer in Mackay. There is absolutely nothing electronic about that, but it still means that the local retailer has missed out.

Shoppers will purchase items wherever they happen to be when they get the urge. The retailer's role is simply to encourage shoppers to have the urge - whether that is online or in person.

Topics:  allan johnson online shopping opinion

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