Cat’s Curiosity: One Click Away From Becoming Reclusive

14 October 2011

Written by: Cat Brooke

I have a confession to make. I’m partially to blame for the downfall of book stores. I’m one of those people who purchases books online. Sorry.

However I have the feeling I’m not alone, especially if you’ve seen text book prices at university. While I’m being honest I should admit…it’s not just books, it’s clothes, and shoes, and random items that Ebay suggests I might like (Ebay is always right). As I push the ‘add to cart’ button time and time again from the comfort of my couch – still in my p.js, at midday – I came to a startling realisation that all this talk I’ve been hearing about the death of retail isn’t just a possible reality, but I’m actually spurring it on. And as I’m generally slow to join trends I’m guessing that if I’m involved in ruining retail shopping then a lot of you probably are too.

But do we even care? I find shopping centres overwhelming and a bit ridiculous, but when the alternative is more time spent staring at a computer screen…Well I’m not sure which poison to choose. Fortunately, the choice is pretty much made for customers, if you know what you want to buy, then who would bother driving to the shops, hunting it down, and then paying double the price for it?

Let’s be honest here, we all love a bargain – if we can get it cheaper somewhere else, why wouldn’t we? The only thing that seems to be saving retail  is the customer service aspect – some  of us still need professionals to teach us about a product and help us determine which one we want. But really, anyone who is remotely capable of using Google can figure most of it out on their own.

The general consensus is that retail owners need to figure out a way to incorporate online aspects into their business to maintain sales. Retailers need to feverishly compete just to stay in the game. But is the fault theirs, or ours?

In our world, where everything is turning digital, why are we blaming the retailers for not keeping up and remaining the same? Shouldn’t shops be seen as a safe haven where people can turn to when they are fed up of the constant attack of digital technology on their lives? Instead retailers are given the choice: try and compete by lowering prices and lashing out on creating an online business, or suffer the same fate as Borders.

We keep pointing the finger, and offering solutions like ‘well retail needs to find another avenue to keep the consumers interested’, but how about we look at ourselves? We are the consumers, we are to blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of the ease of clicking purchase and watching with satisfaction as the mail man brings the parcel straight to your door. I love being able to check out all the variety online and not just shop within my state. But ultimately it falls back onto us.

Soon we won’t even need shopping plazas, Coles delivers now! You can live in luxury without leaving your house. And you might be thinking – that’s perfect! But I feel like in all this retail versus online debacle we seem to have forgotten the other benefits to actually going shopping, it is a social thing. You bump into friends, or arrange to meet them, where you unexpectedly run into quirky shops that you wouldn’t have looked at online – maybe you end up buying walkie talkies from the $2 shop and hanging out at the local park.

Online shopping is just another convenient way to cut out social interaction. It might be the easier, less expensive way to make a purchase, but we should think about what we’re actually losing in the process. I remember shopping with my parents when I was an awkward teenager, there were definitely arguments, but would I change that experience for a virtual one? No way. My parents might have been spared a lot of grief, but that’s life – it’s about real experiences not 2D ones.

The book I brought online will be my last internet purchase. After seeing book shop after book shop close down, I want to help revive our retail world. And if people start to think this way it will eventually make a difference. If we were supporting the retail shops then there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

Cat Brooke is a final-year Bachelor of Creative Arts student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart‘s editorial team. You can follow her on Twitter: @CathrynBrooke