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'Showrooming' hurts smaller retailers - CFIB

By: Q Country News
Posted: November 27, 2019 07:54

People take a pic of a product in store - then buy it online

Image: Retail Alliance

CFIB warns that showroom shopping hurts communities 

"Showrooming", when shoppers visit local businesses to try out or learn about a product, but then buy it from a big box store or online competitor is a major problem for independent merchants heading into the busy holiday season, warns the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). 

In fact, 60 per cent of independent retailers say they have experienced showrooming, with a third of those saying it’s having a significant impact on their business, according to a new CFIB survey. A separate poll of shoppers finds that 55 per cent of consumers are doing it. 

"When customers go into independent stores to ask questions or try on merchandise and then take a picture or write down a model number so they can buy the item online, they might not be aware that they’re not just taking away a sale - they’re taking money away from their neighbourhoods. These are the shops that support local kids’ hockey teams or donate to the community foodbank every Christmas," said Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president. "They care about their customers and want to help and share their expertise, but their rent, their property taxes and their employees need to be paid. Ultimately, when consumers take up the time of local retailers but spend their money elsewhere, it’s our communities that suffer."

Shoppers aged 18 to 34 were more likely than older consumers to showroom shop, with three out of four admitting to having done it, and one in seven even saying they do it often according to a survey CFIB conducted among a representative sample of Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. 

One had a customer so bold that after spending time discussing a product, they ordered it online from a different retailer right there on the spot. A jeweler in Manitoba said a customer consulted her at length to choose the best design and materials for a custom bracelet, but ordered it online - and a paint store in Ontario has homeowners and builders who come in for colour advice, but take the paint sample to a big box store to get a match in a cheaper product.

"You wouldn’t sit down in a restaurant just to read the menu and get some cooking tips from the chef before heading to the grocery store," added Ryan Mallough, Director at CFIB and lead author of the report. "Showrooming may seem harmless, but can really hurt independent retailers, and undermine the health of local communities - especially during the make-or-break holiday season when they’re competing against big box stores and online giants."

The CFIB says independent retailers are deeply grateful and appreciative of their customers. 

"While small retailers wish their customers might better understand the challenges they face and the contributions they make to their communities, the number one thing they wanted to say to their customers was ‘thank you’," concluded Kelly. "With Black Friday and Cyber Monday kicking off the holiday shopping season, we encourage consumers to save themselves the crowds and clicks and visit their local, independent merchants. They’ll thank you and pay it forward."

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