Amazon Fails and Supporting Local Stores - Friday Notes 098

As I read Justin Jackson's recent post about bringing back Main Street first, I could hear and feel the pain he's feeling. I was even the catalyst for a video on the same topic, as I linked to Amazon for a book first. The funny thing is, I don't even mainly purchase books through Amazon anymore. I almost always see if The Bookman has a book. If not then I aim for my local Coles and ship to the store, even though it means I have to pick it up instead of having it on my front doorstep. Shipping to the store means I keep my local store employing my local people. My local Coles does local author readings and has local events.

Sure, it's way more corporate than The Bookman. No I don't get into deep conversations about philosophical books I'm reading with the staff at Coles like I do with the staff at The Bookman. But my neighbours need jobs and purchasing from Coles is better than shipping in a book from Amazon. At least in my mind.

Back to Justin's Video

In the video Justin recorded he talked about having stores connected online so that if The Bookman didn't have a book, maybe Nuggets1 would and by referring me to Nuggets, The Bookman, would get an affiliate credit...or something.

We actually have at least one resource in the Fraser Valley that operates almost exactly like this, without the money. That's my local library, or rather the branch that happens to be closest to me and all the other branches that are spread around the Fraser Valley.

When I search a book at my library, they can tell me if it's anywhere in the system. I can place a hold on it, even if it's 4 cities away. That book will get sent down to my preferred pickup location and I'll get an email when it's in. I can even track it as it moves between locations on it's way to me.

The problem for libraries, just like retail stores, is that there is so much to stock that they could never have it all. Instead of the Chilliwack library needing to stock every book anyone wants, the whole system distributes the load and catalogue. Sharing the burden.

The Ways Amazon is Failing Right Now

Amazon is also failing right now as Prime simply isn't delivering at all. I tried to order 2 things recently that were marked as Prime, but after ordering I'm actually told it will come in a month. Three weeks later I still have no shipping date but they're not letting my cancel my order.

That means I'd be much better off going into a store to get something because they'll actually have it in stock. Sure I may have to wait in a line to get in, but if they have it in stock I can walk out of the store with a product instead of hoping to get a product at some point in the future. Yes my choices may be more limited than what I get searching Amazon, but if I can see it I can buy it.

I actually think that local stores have a big advantage right now in the form of service. I went to Best Buy because my trackpad broke. I ordered online and they met me at the front door and pointed me to someone to help me. In the 15 minutes I was in line outside and went inside to pay, helped they put 15 people through their doors because they pointed to a staff member that would help you specifically. This is much better than the usual service at Best Buy where I had to search for someone, sometimes for 20 minutes to get access to something I could see inside a case.

My local outdoor store Mt Waddington's who knows me and my family was great with helping me pick out a gift for my wife. He walked around the store and sent images of stuff in sizes he figured I'd like. I simply went and paid with my stuff in a box and left.

My local bookstore could do the same when I'm looking for something new to read. They can look through their stock, and since they know me they can recommend something I may never have picked up and I'll purchase it.

My Shopping Takeaway

First off, it doesn't matter the complexity of your local store inventory...you need to be online. Whatever system you use needs to have some sort of API so that it can talk to your online purchasing system and you can sell out of both channels. I do love walking into a store and just talking, but walking in to a pick up a paid-for order is also stellar service.

I'm trying to help get one of my local stores online and while their POS system is great in the store, it's terrible in so many other ways. At this point it looks like I won't be able to get them online without manually entering every product again, which is unlikely to happen.

Second, local stores can excel at personal recommendations. There is no one to call up at Amazon to ask about books. I can't talk to them about the latest headlamps or running shoes. I can do both of those things with my local stores. They'll have great recommendations for me and I can get it as soon as I want to head over and get it.

On my end, the whole COVID-19 thing has shown me the strengths in local stores. Yes they have extra challenges, but with some preparation they can overcome these challenges and then use their strength, personalized service, to far outstrip the benefits of Amazon.

I'm even intrigued by my friend Chris' idea to stop paying for Prime and heading to local stores. It would put a barrier in my face so that I don't simply default to Amazon for purchases. I could almost always find the time in the next week to get something locally instead of waiting for a week to get it from Amazon.

How are you going to support your local stores?

I Shipped

Monday I looked at a $99 iPadPro keyboard that came with a trackpad. I'd love to say that 13.4 made it better, but it didn't. What the keyboard did let me realize is that I really want a trackpad on my iPad case, which means I'm likely in for an expensive keyboard purchase for my iPad Pro next month.

I've got my kids home and they want to participate in videos so, Wednesday they recommended some of their favourite books. If you're looking for some suggestions on books for your kids to read they've got a few.

Today I've got a review of Play Nice in Your Sandbox at Home publishing. It's all about dealing with conflict at home with your closest relationships.


  1. Another local store that I frequent ↩︎