9 January 2015

Local or international business?

| con57
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I’m curious to know what everyone’s opinions are when they are choosing a business to get some work done. Whether it be, automotive, landscaping, morning coffee or anything at all.

What would sway you to choose the little guys or the big guys?


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I go with recommendations from family, friends and work colleagues. Anything for the house and I’m on the phone to a mate who owns a VIP home and garden maintenance franchise.

I like to get on my bicycle and cycle to the shopping centre. For further away there’s the bus, and I still get a short walk with that. I get some exercise as well as handle/see what I want to buy. Getting it over the net removes the opportunity to look at the product (as well as makes me less fit and fatter), and for things like clothes I want to see they fit and suit me before buying. I don’t like big shopping centres such as malls, unless I am buying something very basic, such as cheap underwear. Many other basic things (beside the food), I can get from a neighbourhood supermarket, which includes things like face cream (the cheapest there is, with consideration where it was made taken into account), etc. Individually owned street side shops have more character and appeal to me than malls. The coffee shops there usually have a more interesting outlook too, than stuck in a mall. The rare times I have bought something over the internet, has been because I don’t know where to find it locally. That can also be inconvenient if one is away and not at home when the post-person knocks on the door to deliver it.

I’m not overly keen on the idea of shopping generally, which is why the on-line version appeals to me. I can relax in the comfort of my own home, drink some beer, listen to music, and so on. In terms of the shopping itself, I can just narrow down my target and swoop on what I want quickly and easily. I don’t have to put up with inane questions from bored staff who don’t want to be there, I don’t have to listen to tinny muzak, I don’t have to walk around dawdling people, or wait in queues. More than anything else, I don’t have to support ugly shopping centres, parking, or how to fit large things into a car.

I say shopping centres, because honestly, if a location does not have more than one useful stop, I’d likely avoid it. It would need to have two attributes to change that; either it is the only supplier of what I want, and the service and friendliness of staff would have to make it a place I enjoy visiting even wthout buying. As this combination is rare, whole swathes of Canberra are off the map from my point of view.

I agree with Felix.The process of how people shop shift as the needs they want met by the goods or services do. A lot of it comes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs). When I’m in a hurry, I’ll eat fast food. At that point, while I’m aware it’s not good for me, the convenience factor outweighs anything else. If it’s a special event, though, and I’m hosting, then I pay far more attention to quality, service and ambience.

I recently did clothing shopping, which falls into the second category for me, i.e. I am paying attention to quality, because this is an explicit good (one that economists would consider “signalling”). During the post-Christmas sales, I wanted to buy locally, but had real trouble finding stuff that appealed to me much. After two days of visiting the Canberra Centre, including both department stores, and DFO, I gave up and went online. Within 2-3 hours there, I had spent twice as much on clothing as I did offline.

Sadly, much of this clothing was imported, but it comes back to the historical economics Australia faces in many industries. Much of what I saw in the local retailers was pretty much identical in style; shirts were either plain, checked or striped. Now, given that Australian men are not usually considered to be stylish on a world scale like the Italians or Japanese, I can only presume that they are catering to what the mass market wants.

If clothing retailers step outside of the mass market in Australia, the risk is higher, and they will be unsure of demand. Therefore, they will only buy a few shirts (or whatever) that are different. The cost of buying in this way is higher, and to cover for the risk of no-one buying the shirts, they will lift the price on them too.

I think that this is part of why it’s often hard to find interesting stuff beyond the capital cities. There is no
shortage of design talent across many industries elsewhere, but trying to pay business costs in regional areas without a broad customer base mean that such pieces end up with a high cost per unit. If we had a de-regulated labour market like the USA (and I’m not saying that I am necessarily in favour of that), then we would likely find large differences in the cost of living across the country. I think that this could well foster greater diversity across many industries.

I feel that this diversity is usually missing in Australia, at least in terms of shopping. We have the same chains everywhere, and each Westfield shopping centre is pretty much a clone of any other shopping centre. There is very litte that indicates any sense of local pride, or that separates one particular place from elsewhere, across much of the nation. There is little effort made to make these gigantic concrete blocks fit into the local environment, to help local economies rather than act like vampires upon it, or to put any effort into architecture.

This is in huge contrast to overseas, especally places like Japan. Over there, people’s accents change every fifty kilometres or so, and the history of places often leaves me with a feeling that there is nowhere else on Earth quite like it (especially in Kyoto). They still have businesses making and trading things that have been made for centuries, and such goods are made with quality in mind, not price. Then there is the customer service aspect of it, which is kilometres ahead of much of the rest of the world, not just Canberra.

It is rare to come across this feeling in Australia, although some of our tourism industry seems to get it.

So there you have…my shopping psychology laid out like scrambled eggs. Let the trolling begin! 😀

Felix the Cat2:13 pm 09 Jan 15

It depends. Having a coffee is a totally different thing to having a your gearbox rebuilt or some landscaping done.

Having a coffee or just going for a snack at a cafe I go for the vibe or feel of the place, also the service and the taste of the beverage or food.

If I am having work done on the car or home then I usually shop around for two or three quotes and I guess the vibe of the workshop or person that quotes has a bearing on it as well. If someone seems disinterested in giving a quote then I won’t bother burdening them with my business. I don’t want them to bow and scrape to me, just treat me with respect and give me a quote in a timely and professional manner. And price would be a consideration but I wouldn’t necessarily pick the cheapest price, I would probably go the middle price if I had three quotes, if all other factors were the same.

I buy a lot of stuff from o/s via the internet. Range and variety is much greater, cost is usually around half price to what it is in local shops (if local shops actually stock the items) and I don’t have to deal with disinterested, incompetent, rude or pushy sales staff or battle crowds or do endless laps of car parks looking for a vacant space.

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