It’s a bit embarrassing how often the UPS man drops by, said Megan McArdle. My household orders groceries, electronics, and even air filters for the furnace over the Internet. And I’m hardly alone; many Americans are ordering the bulk of their purchases online. But before buying an item for a steal on Amazon, many people like to see it first at Best Buy or Target. This practice, known as “showrooming,” seems to have made a sizable dent in the Christmas profits of brick-and-mortar retailers. With their real estate and payroll costs, how can big box retailers compete with this “see-it-here, buy-it-there” trend?
Here’s the bitter truth: They probably can’t, and they’ll end up going out of business. Sure, they have survival tactics to make showrooming harder. “Ever tried to shop a mattress at Macy’s, and then buy it at Mattress Discounters? You can’t,” because the mattress names are different. But that approach, which requires cooperation from manufacturers, can only go so far. “What would a Target-specific television look like?” Your local big box would like to know, before it’s too late.