Retail Stores As Showrooms Causes Heated Debate

showrooming-retail-storesThere is a lot of talk about “showrooming,” or the effect on a retail brick-and-mortar store when a shopper chooses to browse the physical store and then buy online because of a better price, section or experience.

The following are just a few of the articles you will find painting a grim picture of what’s happening to our tried and true physical retail stores.


During a recent survey by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, the Journal asked, “Do you use retailers as ‘showrooms’? Do you check out products at stores and them buy them online?”

CHOICES (243 votes cast)

  • Yes, frequently it’s how I get the best deal (16%)
  • Yes, but only a couple of times (42%)
  • No,  it’s a waste of time (30%)
  • No, I never even thought of doing that (13%)


The answers were angry. For example…

“I wish one of the choices was ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT!’ I think it’s disgusting to use the retailers that way. They are burdening the resources by paying staff, building costs, insurance, etc. to have customers come and and use them for their knowledge, and then save a buck to buy online. That is a retail channel management at its worst. Its people who do this that are responsible for closures of specialty and boutique shopping and even for the downward spiral of some big box. I have never, and will never, make that type of purchase.” – Kittie


I believe this controversy is more about the fact that most retail stores are behind the times, than that they are being used unfairly. If you peruse the comments further you will see they range from angry to nostalgic. Regardless of the reaction to the question, the issue remains retail stores have put themselves in a bad position and only they can make it better. There is no reason on and offline cannot co-exist happily together for both the good of the company and that of  the consumer. But how could such a feat be accomplished and still hold down costs? That’s were new thinking comes in.


To think differently we can’t think of the retail store as we do today with its numerous sales associates, stagnating inventory and predatory feel (the commissioned sales personnel). No. Think Amazon, think Zappos, then add to those models something you can’t get online…touch and feel, people to talk to and a destination. Retailers should be thinking about how to convert their old-fashioned store into an innovative “showroom” rather than worrying about showrooming. Done right, it’s likely they would actually see their profits go up! How?

  • Cut the store footprint down in size by having more samples products opposed to purchasable products.
  • Do more research to determine the BEST products to sell. Many retailers are still selling too many products.
  • Add technology with interactive product information instead of relying solely on teams of people.
  • Provide fast, easy, reliable shipping instead of stocking everything in-store. Think Amazon Prime.
  • Add an incentive to buy from your store rather than the online competitor who is $10 cheaper. Incentives could be warranties, easy returns, etc.


A similar model has worked for other successful businesses. Look at the Select Comfort (Sleep Number bed) or Brookstone. They don’t stock mattresses on their shelves or keep huge inventories. Ikea is a great example of a company that uses the showroom idea and combines it with their own warehouse so the consumer not only experiences the product, but can take it home the same day.


It’s true this exact model wouldn’t work for all retail stores, but there are other ideas out there. The point is the average retail store is not evolving with the the changing times and instead of addressing the real issue, we’re complaining about who’s stealing sales. It’s time to look at the real issue and start thinking differently. What are your ideas? How can you favorite retail store make the experience better, cut costs and keep up?



Images courtesy of: © Fredgoldstein | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos




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About Karin Khuhro

Karin Khuhro is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Copywriter. As the owner of Strategy E-ssentials she works with other savvy marketers, digital specialists and business leaders to bring knowledge, know-how and solutions to small and medium sized businesses. Connect with Karin on Google+ or Linkedin.