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The voice of business in Canberra

My hat. And the future of retail

By johnboy - 3 October 2013 34

bowler hat

Bear with me here. A huge chunk of Canberra’s economy turns on this hat.

Recently I was in the market for a hat. Fedoras had served me well in recent years but a man needs a bit of variety and really, if you can pick one up in Target how cool can it be? (Nerf guns excepted)

And so inspired a recent(ish) Cracked article on how bowler hats were the real hat of choice for cowboys I decided gentleman cowboy could work for me.

Sadly the hat shop has gone, even from its upstairs relocation. David Jones was boarded up at the top floor, what I really needed was a search function for the Canberra Centre down to inventory level.

A light went off in my head and I went home.

I punched “bowler hats” into google and in five minutes time I was on Hatworld where for $50 a hat was in the mail arriving two working days later.

It helps that I know my hat size. And it helps that the item I was after was very specific, albeit unusual.

It’s a very fine hat (silk lining, leather inner band, feather) and you can tune into tomorrow’s RiotWrap to see how it’s going.

But with so many people pouring their life savings into mall franchises, and so many young Canberrans relying on retail jobs we might want to think how retail of the future is actually going to look.

No-one’s going to buy an unfamiliar perfume online. But once you know what you like one bottle of Chanel No 5 is much like another.

So an occasional perfume fair at the showground for introductions followed by online sales is surely going to work better in the long run than stock being lugged around the country and locked in glass boxes by surly teens?

With clothes you have to wonder if the tailor is about to make a return.

Someone who has your measurements on file, knows the online retailers backwards, can order stock in for you from anywhere AND alter it as needed AND ideally give you some advice.

(I would pay a serious premium for this service, to some extent I do when I go to John Hanna but the model just needs a few tweaks).

What won’t we buy online?

Fresh food to some extent, hardware to some extent, anything with prohibitive postage?

What am I missing here?

Advice is something that will get us through the door, but current retail models offer us generally terrible service.

On a whim the other day I stopped into EB Games to buy Diablo 3 instead of downloading it.

There was one guy on the desk, there was a queue, it took 15 minutes to give them my money.

So buying console games in the store is right now harder than buying it through the console, from my own home.

Majura Park with its big boxes and vast parking still gets a lot of my business, but the right online retailer could wipe that out in a second, the dog food I buy out there I could in theory order from anywhere.

Is the only low level job of the future going to be in parcel delivery?

What’s Your opinion?

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34 Responses to
My hat. And the future of retail
knuckles 4:10 pm 03 Oct 13

You should have got a Bollman 1940’s Pork Pie hat.
As worn by Heisenberg

niftydog 3:48 pm 03 Oct 13
harvyk1 3:33 pm 03 Oct 13

In the future malls and retail outlets will be less about buying stuff, and more about trying stuff. Using the perfume example above, yes you might not know what Chanel No 5 smells like (at least by name), but that’s ok, you go down to your local “perfume” store and try it on. You then decide you like it and order it right there and then whilst still in store.

This means that the store no longer needs to keep a large stock pile inventory which they need to get rid of once the item is no longer fashionable.

What we will see (at least in larger cities, Canberra is probably too small for this) is the rise of the same day delivery (for a price). So I see something at lunch time I like the look of and it’s sitting at my door when I get home in the evening. The delivery would be much like ordering a pizza, where companies would sign up to a distribution center (aka the pizza store) and drivers would deliver to certain suburbs from that distribution center.

Felix the Cat 2:57 pm 03 Oct 13

I too have recently bought a dishwasher online. Probably from the same place as beejay76 as my experience was similar. Cheaper with free delivery and they took the old one away.

I buy most of my stuff online because it’s usually half price or less than what you pay at local shops plus it’s way more convenient to sit at home in front of the computer and order it with the click of a mouse rather than drive all over town just to be ignored by disinterested and incompetent sales staff. Plus often the online shops have a larger range/variety of items to choose from.

Dilandach 2:48 pm 03 Oct 13

The first time I ordered groceries online it was ’99. A place in sydney called ‘ShopFast’. They were pretty good and were one of the first to have mobile EFTPOS machines. I used them a couple of times before I moved away from Sydney not long after. If I was still an ineligible bachelor I’d probably still be buying groceries that way but alas the grocery purchasing rights were taken away.

Recently I bought a pair of shoes from Amazon for less than half what it would cost for me to buy them at DFO but it didn’t go well, it was the right size on the box but the shoes were two sizes too small so I have to pony up another $20 to send them back.

With games… for PC i’m all about steam and don’t mind not having a pile of CDs (I’ll get around to playing those games I’ve bought but never played one day) but with the consoles, for some reason I prefer to have the media.

beejay76 2:42 pm 03 Oct 13

Watson said :

I actually buy most of my groceries online, have just started to have meat delivered and am considering having my veggies and fruit delivered too.

I get my veg delivered by Vegies To Your Door. They kick the crap out of supermarkets and most fresh food stores. I pay $80 for a large seasonal box (which usually ends up being two boxes, actually). I highly recommend them!

And I totally agree with the appliances thing. I recently bought a dishwasher online. The price was cheaper than bricks and mortar stores, and delivery was free. Their delivery timeframe was also a 2-hour slot, rather than an 8-hour one. Why would you bother dragging your carcass out to Fyshwick when you can click?

poetix 2:37 pm 03 Oct 13

My favourite stores are boutiques, as in Braddon, and op shops. I do quite like the supermarket in the Canberra Centre, but will only zoom into the other shops if I need something specific and easily located. It always seems quite full, but lots of people seem to go there just to eat.

I agree that customer service makes a huge difference; compare L’OCCITANE with one of the Department stores where you could die before being served.

I use the internet for weird funny things. Occasionally I am very bad, ignore global warming caused by planes, and order things like bathers from Poland.

Very nice hat, though I think the correct word is dapper.

Watson 1:59 pm 03 Oct 13

I actually buy most of my groceries online, have just started to have meat delivered and am considering having my veggies and fruit delivered too. That stuff does come from brick and mortar stores (I pick my groceries up from their loading dock) but I couldn’t care less about the physical store.

Of course I do occasionally go to fresh food stores, but they are becoming way less important to me than they once were.

I’ve bought appliances online. Much easier than going to the store, then looking up the reviews, then buying it at the store and discovering they charge you $100 for delivery.

I actually buy very little these days without looking up the reviews. If the staff at appliance stores would actually know their stuff, maybe I’d like them to talk to me about the features of their stock and how different models compare, etc. But they don’t, so they are a total waste of my time and just a very expensive way for a store to take payments. I’d feel more sorry for them if they would actually ever look like they enjoyed working in customer service…

There are certain stores I occasionally like to go to to browse. Camping stores. Never buy a tent before you’ve seen it set up.

Pet stores. Because I like trying out all their dog and cat toys.

Can’t actually think of many more. The occasional clothes store, but I hate clothes shopping, so rather risk getting the wrong size by buying online. It’s still cheaper that way.

Thumper 1:43 pm 03 Oct 13

I am the owner of not one, but two toppers 🙂

neanderthalsis 1:37 pm 03 Oct 13

I purchased both a bowler and a topper at the leather goods shop (same people own it as the Bungendore one) on the bottom floor at Westfield Belconnen.

But to the deeper question on the future of retail, I can buy books cheaper from the UK, with postage, than I can from Dymocks. However, that only works when I want a specific title. Currently if I am in the grazing mood I can wander the aisles and pick up a title that looks interesting. But if all book retailers go the way of Angus and Robertson and Borders, my browsing will be limited to the remainder tables and to Lifeline book fairs.

milkman 1:21 pm 03 Oct 13

I think discouraging hipsters from visiting the Canberra Centre can only be a good thing.

rosscoact 1:15 pm 03 Oct 13

Not just buying stuff either. The service industry which makes up a large amount of the western world’s economy is offshore and cheap.

You can get business cards designed and print ready files sent to you for $25. You can get an intro and an outro for a podcast or video for $5, you can get transcripts of videos done for $5 for 10 or 15 minutes.

And what’s more, the level of service and skill you get from these people is often far superior than what you get locally.

At the same time, so much back-of-house work is outsourced to Asia. Your next monthly bill is likely to come from the Philippines rather than Phillip.

Become a plumber, was good advice when I was a kid and just as good now.

Solidarity 12:53 pm 03 Oct 13

This comic is relevant

Anywho, the cyclist hater thread is funnier if you read it as “cyclist hatter”

DrKoresh 12:40 pm 03 Oct 13

I had a friend in high school who wore a bowler hat every single day from year 9 through to year 12. Originally it was a cheap cardboard costume variety but he shelled out for nice real one eventually. Apart from him I don’t think I’ve seen them worn ever in the real world.

It’s a better choice then a fedora though, there’s something sad about guys in fedoras.

HiddenDragon 12:31 pm 03 Oct 13

The future for bricks and mortar retail is not looking bright. I think some of the problems (as with other sectors of the economy) go back to the Australian obsession with real estate and the ridiculous costs of commerial and residential accommodation. That, in turn drives overly high, and (generally) internationally uncompetitive rates of remuneration throughout the economy – which, of course, in a globalised, net-savvy world makes it all the more appealing to take advantage of cheaper goods and services from overseas.

That said, larger Australian retailers still have a long way to go in making use of the net – even for simple tasks like checking whether a store near you has the particular product you want. Smaller retailers generally need to get better at understanding what their customers want, and doing their realistic best to deliver that.

BTW – when I first noticed the pic which goes with this item, I thought “how interesting, a fashion piece about droogs going metrosexual” – I am sure it looks so much better on you, than it would on Warren Clarke, JB.

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