The Internet Killed The Retail Star

There was another boring conference call and the managers were yappin’ about the usual baloney. “Another day in retail paradise,” Fred thought sarcastically as he half-listened from the behind the counter at his store. “I get paid to sell, not to listen to this jibber jabber.” It wasn’t until someone began discussing Fed’s biggest and baddest competitor of all time – the Internet – that his ears perked up and he began to pay attention.

The Internet never sleeps, doesn’t make a commission, doesn’t complain about it’s schedule, doesn’t have a problem executing company direction, doesn’t need more training, and doesn’t even need a roof over its head to make sales. It has no soul, no family to provide for, and no limits to its potential.

It was starting to make sense to him now. The train of thought terrified Fred, and shook his core like a tuning fork. His thoughts drifted back to his experience from a week ago.

He needed to buy a new dark conservative business suit to wear to work. A friend told Fred to buy his suits online. “You’ll get a terrific deal,” Fred’s friend insisted.

“Never bought anything online before,” Fred thought. A few months back Fred finally started a Facebook page. Before then, he swore he’d never participate in that nonsense, but he couldn’t resist anymore. He had to see what all the fuss was about and wanted to keep tabs on his teenage kids. Facebook was his gateway drug. “I hate spending $200 on work suits I’m just going to beat up anyway. How hard can it be?”

So he went online, and Googled “mens suits.” The shopping results showed designer brands like Ralf Lauren, Jones New York, and Calvin Klein for prices ranging from $99 to $299. “This’ll be easy,” said Fred. But he quickly discovered suits are hard to buy online. He couldn’t remember his neck, chest and waist measurements, and he really wanted to try them on before buying. “You can’t buy a suit online,” Fred thought, half mocking his silly friend who made the suggestion, and half mocking himself for thinking suits could be bought online.

Fred got into his car and headed to a suit store called Men’s Wearhouse. They gave him excellent service, measuring his neck, chest, and waist for him, and then helping him try on a charcoal grey Calvin Klein suit jacket one arm at a time. Fred liked the way he looked.

“You were born to wear that suit,” yucked the salesman.

What Fred didn’t like was the price. At $499.99, it was twice as much as its online counterparts.

“Will that be cash or charge sir?” the salesman asked confidently, assuming the sale, like he had done successfully a million times over in the past. But something felt different to the salesman.

“I need to think about it,” Fred was lying. “Can I have your card. I’ll come back later.” He lied again.

“Damn tire-kickers. I’m so sick of people wasting my time,” the salesman thought. Or maybe he thought, “He’ll be back.” Either way he was wrong. Either way he was dead where he stood. The salesman was a dinosaur watching an asteroid coming crashing towards him thinking, “No big deal. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“Am I like him?” Fred now thought, returning for a moment from his recollection. The conference call continued in the background.

Fred thought back again to what happened after he left Men’s Wearhouse. He drove home from the store and clicked his way Overstock.com as fast as he could. Armed with all the information he needed, courtesy of Men’s Wearhouse, and ordered the same Calvin Klein charcoal grey suit for $179.99 with free shipping. Men’s Wearhouse paid for the advertising, paid for the rent for the big fancy store, paid for the manager to yell at the employees until the store was clean and fancy looking, paid for the salesman’s hourly wage and benefits to try to sell the suit to Fred, and paid for the fancy heavy stock business card, where the salesman wrote down the measurements Fred used to buy his suit from Overstock.com.

And Fred’s thoughts now depressed him. No one watches music videos on MTV. No one is shaking Polaroid pictures. No one is buying ad space in the Yellow Pages. No one is renting DVDs from Blockbuster. No one needs a real estate agent, a travel agent, a financial advisor, a bank teller, or a salesman.

They’re all dead, they just don’t know it yet.

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One thought on “The Internet Killed The Retail Star

  1. John is a beacon for his generation….he gets it

    As a 65 year old male, I remember the days of trying on suits to wear to the office. Of touching physical objects and connecting with what I was about to buy.

    I see the business logic of the online markets, but I fear our loss of the human side of interaction, with all its facets.

    Jess Dods MBA

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