25 November 2022

Online sales like Black Friday risk putting local retailers in the red

| Ross Solly
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Online shopping

Think carefully before you make your next online purchase. Photo: File.

During pandemic lockdowns many of us took the opportunity to learn new skills. Some took to dusting off old jigsaw puzzles, or putting together model cars, or planting new gardens.

One area where a lot of people all over the world became much more proficient was online shopping. Suddenly we discovered how easily we could shop on the internet.

Depending where you were living, you could buy a new hat online on Wednesday and be wearing it on your lockdown-approved walk by the weekend.

It’s a habit a lot of us are finding hard to shake. We boast about the new shoes we picked up for a song on the net – and Canberra retailers are paying the price.

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The Black Friday sales have become something of a global phenomenon. Billions of dollars are spent, mostly at the click of a button, as shoppers sniff out bargains. And having Black Friday sales a month before Christmas is proving incredibly enticing.

Add in the cost of living pressures many Canberrans have been struggling with, and the likelihood more pain is to come, it comes as no surprise the release of the pressure valve, even just for a four-day shopping bonanza, is too much for most to ignore.

I’ve only ever bought one item during Black Friday sales. I bought a pair of headphones, in an electronics shop, not because I really needed them, but because I thought the price was too good to ignore.

Don’t get me wrong, my lack of Black Friday activity is no reflection of a lack of desire, more a lack of being organised. Because for a long time, even before the pandemic, I’ve tried to avoid shopping online, especially with the big global behemoths who certainly don’t need my money.

But that means if I need or want something, like a new book, or clothes, I have to get out and get down to the shops. That’s where my lack of organisational ability lets me down.

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Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt sounded cautiously optimistic ahead of these latest sales. The stars were aligning in terms of timing, but there was still the mindset among many that the best bargains could be found online.

This in many situations is the case. But you have to ask yourself, are you happy to save a few dollars shopping with a global online megastore with few overhead costs, rather than support a neighbourhood business which employs locally and reinvests the money back into your community?

Yes, it can be a bit of a hassle, getting up off the couch, grabbing the keys or the bike, and heading into the shops. And for many people, mingling with other shoppers when COVID-19 is still sneaking around the community fills them with dread.

But next time you head down to the local shops, spend some time looking at the storefronts that have been boarded up, with the “for lease” signs in the window, and spend a moment contemplating what happened to the people who used to work there.

And if you still are able to go home, pull out the laptop and try and snap up a bargain, then who am I to judge?

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I will use online shopping when I know I can’t buy something locally and know that waiting for it to be delivered is not an issue.

The problem with online shopping is that you can’t pay for something and be enjoying/using it the same day.

if we overuse online shopping at the expense of local retailers the locals will shut up shop and then when you need something on the same day you are stuffed.

Use it or risk losing it.

Events like Black Friday don’t achieve a lot. Sure, everyone enjoys a bargain and they generate sales, but they also create pre-sales vacuums when people hold off buying waiting for a bargain and then a post-sale vacuum when people have no money left.

Stupid opinion piece from Mr Solly. Online buying has been with us for nearly two decades. Adapt or perish.

ChrisinTurner1:20 pm 25 Nov 22

However local shops rarely stock the complete range of the product I am seeking. They don’t have the sizes and colours or they can’t find the product. Local shops are unfortunately in a race to the bottom.

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