Friday 28 February 2014

Before We Had Our Car Park

Not sure how many traders would be aware that the area occupied by the current car park used to be trading or storage sheds as this photo shows. We would love to hear from any trader who may have an idea of the year this photo was taken.

Have Your Say - click here.

Hell For Customers

A lot of focus is being placed on the difficulties of retailers as they struggle to cope with new consumerism and the challenges of the digital age but what about our poor customers?

Imagine being thrust into a new environment where the comfortable traditions of the past have been replaced by new technology - where you have to learn a whole new set of skills and make decisions with new, unfamiliar sources of information. That is exactly what our customers are being asked to do. First they were asked to get email addresses so that information could be sent to them. Then they were told that Facebook was the communication tool of the future, that shopping could be done online, even with mobile phones, and that mobile phone apps were essential tools for shopping.

Shopping used to mean heading down to the local shops whether it be a strip shopping centre or perhaps a regional centre or market for more choice. You made your decision from the available retailers and you were able to touch and feel before you made your purchase. Now shoppers are expected to go online, check out options, consider interstate or overseas purchases and make decisions from printed information or photos. Then there is a whole range of information exchanges, verifications and follow-ups.

If you think about it, this has been a very steep learning curve for customers and while many have embraced the process, there are many who have struggled and many who are still learning. The choices can be overwhelming. Is it any wonder that we have noticed a simple common denominator like price become more dominant in customer decision making. The rest of it is all a bit too hard.

It is commonly said that the digital age has brought many benefits but it has also brought a lot of challenges and confusion for customers. Put simply, it has made decision making more difficult for many. More than ever, traders need to understand those difficulties, know what their competition is offering (locally and globally) and know how to engage with customers. 

Current retail media suggests that the situation is stabilising and that bricks’n’mortar shopping has weathered the storm although it now operates within an omni-channel environment which incorporates many digital elements. Let’s hope our customers are becoming more comfortable with the process. Happy customers make happy retailers. 

Sunday 23 February 2014

Trader Murphy Was An Optimist

We decided that it was time Murphy's Law was applied to QVM. Here are some examples, and of course we welcome your input on Have Your Say.

- If a trader’s newsletter contains important information you won’t get one.

- If you put a new product on your stall, no matter what type or where it came from, a customer will ask – “Did you make that?”

- The day you want to leave the market early you will get a last minute customer.

- The day you get a new table cloth a pigeon will poop on it.

- If you overcharge a customer you will find him/her in the next stall. If you undercharge a customer they will have left the market.

- Your EFTPOS machine will run out of battery during the biggest sale of the day.

- When you are forced to take a day off it will be on the day of the week that you have already used up your allocation.

- Your hot lunch will always arrive just before a particularly lengthy sale.

- The last product in the range never sells.

-  A new product will sell particularly well only until the minute you place a repeat order.

- A very busy morning trade is usually followed by a quiet afternoon. A quiet morning usually stays that way.

Next QVMAC Meeting Around The Corner

A full Queen Victoria Market Advisory Committee meeting is to be held mid-March. This is the meeting involving your 10 trader representatives, representatives of management including our CEO Jan Cochrane-Harry, and QVM Board members - Caroline Parker, and Paul Sheahan.

The meeting will be following up on issues raised at our last meeting in November, catching up on renewal progress since then, and raising new issues for discussion. As always we seek guidance from all traders on aspects of business at QVM. How do you view progress on renewal? What issues need to be addressed while renewal is going on in the background? How do you view the state of business and what is happening in the wider economy?

Any issue you wish to raise will be welcome. You can write to us, leave a comment on HaveYour Say, or talk to your trader representative.

Latest Retail News – 23/2/2014

Latest Retail News – 23/2/2014

1. JB Hi Fi and The Good Guys win their categories in Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Surveys for 3rd year in a row.
2. Myer’s Bernie Brooks puts up his hand to run any combined Myer/David Jones entity.
3. RFG reports big sales increase at Michel’s Patisserie new ‘store of the future’ in Lilydale.
4. Dick Smith reports strong results following public float.
5. David Jones signs deal to retail Lorna Jane clothing.
6. Consumer electronics companies like HP, Sony, Acer and Nespresso embrace marketing through pop-up kiosks in shopping centres.
7. Gloria Jeans to close 25 stores as it plans franchise-only model.
8. Coles links with Google to provide digital walkthrough of its Broadway, Sydney, supermarket.
9. NZ retail sales fail to meet expectations.
10. Starbucks celebrates 100th store in Singapore.
11. Wesfarmers gets good results from Coles, K-Mart, and Bunnings while Target continues to struggle.
12. Bonds parent company records significant first half loss following writedowns in Workwear and Brand Collective (quitting Diesel & Stussy) divisions.
13. Krispy Kreme plans re-entry to China.
14. Reject Shop’s first half profit falls 15.9% due poor Christmas sales.
15. Ibisworld says healthier offerings are giving fast food industry a boost.
16. Walmart earnings fall 21% in quarter to 31st January.

Why Is QVM Not Part of Melbourne’s White Night?

 White Night Melbourne is a celebration of music, art, food, theatre, sport, fashion, film, design, and performance in Melbourne’s CBD. It is an annual 12 hour event created and supported by the State Government of Victoria. But The Queen Victoria Market is not part of it.

White Night is inspired by Paris’ Nuit Blanche and duplicated in 20 global cities. In February 2013 it attracted 300,000 to Melbourne’s CBD and reportedly jammed mobile networks. But The Queen Victoria Market is not part of it.

The event has been significantly expanded this year to cope with huge crowds and a northern and southern hub introduced to help control crowd movement. The northern hub takes in parts of Franklin St. and Elizabeth St. but does not extend to The Queen Victoria Market.

White Night Melbourne says that events are held in major cultural institutions right across the city centre. The State Government recently announced their intent to make an expanded QVM precinct the hub of the city’s north. Wikipedia says “The Market is significant to Melbourne's culture and heritage.” But The Queen Victoria Market is not part of White Night Melbourne.

White Night 2014 started at 7:00pm this evening (Saturday) so QVM won’t be part of this year’s celebration but let’s hope the “cultural icon” of the city’s north gets a role in 2015.
(Thanks to Bob Andrewartha for raising this issue.)

23/2/2014 14:24  White Night  - "I think it is because they want to have all events connected (geographically)." - Tony Pierrakos (Facebook)

Friday 21 February 2014

New Lighting To Guide Supermarket Customers

Finding items in your supermarket seems to get harder and harder. We know this is a deliberate ploy by supermarkets to get you to walk past as much produce as possible during your shopping trip. But Phillips have come up with new retail lighting that just may make things easier.

Imagine a mobile phone app that reads the overhead lights to determine your in-store position then directs you to the location where you can purchase your needs. Let’s say you key in BBQ lamb chops. The app will direct you to the meat section, possibly via the sauce aisle with a special offer on tomato sauce. Phillips call this “light based communication”.

Why Your Competitor Should be Next Door.

We appear to have a fixation at QVM (at least in the top end) that competition is bad for business. And yet that is totally at odds with outside experience and even with a large part of QVM itself.

Last week I observed a trader getting upset because a competitor in the next aisle had created a walk through in the adjacent empty stall. This said two things to me - firstly the complaining trader didn't believe he was competitive with the trader in the next aisle and secondly he felt that by creating a one aisle (or 7 stall) barrier he was somehow going to convince the customer that he was the only seller in his category at QVM. In this age of retail transparency do we really believe customers are fooled?

Shopping centres group like-retailers together for good reason. It is convenient for customers and it stimulates business. Customers want to go to one area, compare the offers, and make their choice. Traders often say "Yes - but retailers in shopping centres are differentiated by brand. We don't have that." Well, we may not have the same brand differentiation but we can show real difference. Not every stall in the same category has exactly the same products. Every category has its niches. Every category has different sources of supply, different merchandising possibilities, and different ways of dealing with the customer. Once again, do we really think we are fooling our customers by putting 7 stalls between competitors.

Take our fresh food areas as an example. In the fruit & vegetable, meat & fish, and the deli hall, competitors are side by side and openly competing with each other. Often they are selling very similar products. A trader has to be on his/her game, making sure that quality and price are competitive, making sure that they differentiate themselves with specialty items and offering the best possible customer service. Competition enhances all those aspects of business. And who is the winner? Well, there are two actually. Firstly, the customer, because his/her choices are made easier by the location of like traders, and secondly, the trader who benefits from customer satisfaction and the stimulus that competition provides.

This is a very sensitive issue. I understand the arguments that having competitors side by side may create friction. Of course you don't have to have competitors actually side by side but you would have them in the same area. I am often reminded of a cheeky comment made by a contributor to Participate Melbourne back in November. The comment published on the CoM website went something like this - "QVM has plenty of variety. In one aisle you have hoodies, t-shirts and socks, while in the next aisle you have socks, hoodies and t-shirts." It was a cheeky comment but it had some truth. By spreading our stalls across 8 or so aisles and putting a smattering of each category in each aisle we are creating a sameness, because every aisle has the same mix. That is largely being driven by the 7 stall rule. In a sense we are hiding the incredible depth that we can offer.

This sameness of each aisle is a regular criticism from our customers and it is a criticism we seriously need to address if we are to improve business. Creating precincts or "stories" of related offers makes a lot more sense to our customers. It is what they embrace in our fresh food areas and what they expect in most shopping precincts. This is the age of the customer. Ultimately, they strongly influence how we do things. Our attitude to competition in the top end needs review.

P.S. – If we had customer counting facilities at QVM (see our article - we could actually test this precinct concept. Imagine counting the number of customers that visited a particular stall or group of stalls over a period of time and then counting again after a precinct had been created. The possibilities are very exciting.

Have Your Say – click here.

28/02/2014 16:11:34 Placing Traders with same goods near each other "This all sounds wonderful on paper BUT  WHO GETS THE PRIME SPOTS    do we throw out the Traders who have spent many long and hard years to acquire their spot to accommodate some new  style eclectic management favourite  in their spot  while they are placed in a lesser spot." JR   E shed
"It is true that moving stalls creates all sorts of unknowns and we will have to be brave. But, I think it is fair to say that favourites will only be selected  over the bodies of your QVMAC Representatives. That's not how we do things. It does raise the question however of whether selections are made on the basis of  contribution to the market or just years of service. Whatever happens, an open and transparent process with everyone having their say would be the way to go. This process presumes that traders will benefit from significantly improved business as a result of creating precincts so the old prime spots may become academic." - Ed

Tip of the Week - Measure Everything You Do.

Measure everything you do.
Logic and fact beat guesses every time, and to be logical and sure of your facts, you need data. You can measure all sorts of things - sales, advertising, customer connections. Anything that changes needs to be measured, and once you measure it, you can manage it. 

During a recent customer survey project many traders were surprised how much they learned by measuring where their customers came from. Once you know more about an aspect of your business, you can direct more time and effort to that aspect, and if it has a dollar benefit, you are on a winner. 

Small business owners are fond of relying on "gut feeling" but measuring is surprisingly simple and much more reliable. In this very competitive retail environment it may give you the edge you need.

Have Your Say - click here.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Latest Retail News – 16/2/2014

Latest Retail News – 16/2/2014

1. Online clothing stores experience 4% revenue decline in last 12 months due market saturation.
2. McDonalds to spend $3 billion building 1600 new stores worldwide.
3. Woolworths achieve record sales through supermarkets while department store Big W falters.
4. Australian December retail sales grew 5.7% over previous year.
5. Noni B profit down as it plans some store closures.
6. David Jones considers property development on its wholly owned flagship stores.
7. Woolworths NZ supermarkets suffer community backlash over decision to prefer Aussie over NZ products in Australian supermarkets.
8. Bendigo online furniture retailer, Make Your House A Home, wins Houzz award for international excellence.
9. H&M to open its first COS store in Australia later this year.
10. David Jones chairman and two directors step down from board amid shareholder anger.
11. French mustard brand, Maille, opens first concept store in Mt Eliza supermarket.
12. Costco to open its first store in Spain in 2014.
13. Zara opens its 9th Australian store at Sydney’s Chatswood Centre.
14. Prada reports 9% sales growth in 2013.
15. Retail sales rose 13 per cent in Vietnam in January.
16. Australian street fashion icon, Ksubi, closing all stores.

Markets Have A Great Future

This is one man’s opinion but he is the highly respected CEO of the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales.
Rakuten CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, wrote an article recently about the clone wars in retail. He noted that “the variety and individual character of small and medium businesses is rapidly disappearing as ruthless efficiency and a uniform shopping experience bulldoze both physical stores and online commerce.”
He went on to say – “Ultimately, the customer will decide, but I believe that a rich, fun, highly competitive, efficient system that empowers merchants will win the day. This is why markets from Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to Pike Place in Seattle to Portobello Road in London are tourist attractions in themselves. They are shopping experiences, not just faceless transactions.”

So we have one of the movers and shakers in the retail world telling us that large public retail markets have the right ingredients for the future. And we are just about to enter a renewal phase where millions of dollars will be spent on our very own Queen Victoria Market. 

I have two things to say –  I like the “empowers merchants” bit in Mr. Mikitani’s quote and, if he is right about our future, I would like my Ferrari in white.

Have Your Say – click here.

City of Melbourne Considers Trader Views on Renewal

A number of QVM Traders were observers at The Future Melbourne Committee meeting on Tuesday evening to consider various issues including the QVM Renewal.

The meeting was asked to note the first stage of QVM renewal consultation and endorse the Governance Structure set up to manage the decision making process (see our article - )

Councillors lined up to commend the consultative process as an excellent example of transparent community and stakeholder engagement and unanimously endorsed the proposed Governance Structure. There was some spirited debate around an underground car park including a defence of the idea from Cr. Wood. It was generally conceded that, until firm plans were on the table, it was difficult for productive argument to develop.

Traders were mentioned on many occasions during the discussion, particularly in relation to the need for a robust consultation process and also when discussing issues like the car park. The next stage of consultation commences in April.

An Alternative For The QVM Acronym.

A trader has suggested an alternative for the QVM (Queen Victoria Market) acronym.

Quality - there are thousands of examples in our market where quality is paramount and exceeds the standard retail offer.
Value - providing value is a key ingredient for QVM traders and one of the major draw cards for customers. Value implies a fair deal for everyone.
Meeting-place - QVM is all about people. A meeting place for different customer groups - locals, regional, interstate, and international. Different cultures - indigenous and international. Different age groups - from school children to seniors. A melting pot of personal relationships.

So when we think QVM we can also think Quality, Value and Meeting-place.

Global News Items On Innovation In Retailing -

- Russia's internet fashion retailer, Lamoda, has 1.5 million active customers and uses delivery staff as its sales assistants. In a country with a notoriously unreliable postal service, Lamoda delivers direct to customers, gives them time to try on the item, and then collects payment and organises any returns.

- A US manufacturer of nasal sprays used to combat dust in the home found it achieved 40% better sales selling at hardware store counters than the traditional drugstore chains. The sales boost was driven by hardware stores looking to provide extra service to their customers.

- A small sofa manufacturer in North Carolina couldn't compete with larger competitors in marketing so he introduced existing customer tryouts. Prospective customers can visit the home of existing customers to sample the furniture in a home environment. The existing customers receive a $50 fee for their service.

News From Under The Sheds

Plastic Bag Reduction
After the successful introduction of a Plastic Bag Reduction Program in the food areas, QVM is about to launch a similar campaign in the top end Specialty Merchandise area. The aim will be to reduce the use of standard plastic bags and incorporate sustainability practices that the community has come to expect of retailers generally. 

Policing Market Rules
At the request of traders, QVM management will shortly be giving more attention to some of our existing market rules - rules that are designed to enhance the trading experience for all traders and present our market in the best possible light to customers. Things like storage boxes remaining in aisles after trading commences or being placed in aisles before closing time, will be targeted. Storage boxes are a very useful part of our operation but they can inhibit business if they block aisles during business hours. 
Other market rules are also under examination.

Single Day Absences
SL licence holders are not allowed single day absences from the market. Leave has to be taken in one week blocks. The inequities of this licence condition have been obvious for some time and the recent spate of 40 degree + days has highlighted them once again. QVMAC Traders and management are currently holding discussions on how some flexibility may be introduced for SL licence holders. Watch this space.

Michael Presser Consecration

A note from Robyn Presser about Michael who was a well respected figure in trader/management relations for many years at QVM before passing away in May 2013.

Michael Presser Consecration -  a note from Robyn Presser. "Just letting you know that the Consecration of the Monument for our beloved Michael (OBM) will be held on Sunday 23rd February, 11am at Melbourne Chevra Kadisha Cemetery, Browns Road, Springvale, Compartment 26, Row F, No 13."

Subconscious Buying - The Untapped Market

How much of our shopping is driven by planned deliberate choices and how much comes from our sub-conscious thoughts as we walk around shops. A recent study by Nielson's in the US suggested that around 70% of supermarket purchases were planned leaving a massive 30% to "on the spot" buying decisions and it was suggested that the supermarket experience translated to all forms of retailing.

Your sub-conscious may work through simple idle thought. You are thinking about the upcoming weekend and suddenly realise that you need to buy an item for a particular activity. Or you may get distracted by something while doing your shopping. This is why supermarkets have cooking demonstrations at key locations in store. Getting customers out of their focused shopping list mentality and into more open purchasing mode is the name of this game.

The same works at QVM. Many of the customers walking through the top end of the market are on their way to buy food with shopping list in hand.  These are potential customers and if Nielson's are correct, the potential for sub-conscious sales is quite large. The secret is to grab their attention and we do that through irresistible displays and ideally a bit of theatre. Giving your stall the right appeal through a well merchandised, attractive display, and creating a significant point of difference with your surroundings, is likely to translate to more dollars. Getting customers to think outside their formal shopping trip and to embrace the sub-conscious is the challenge.

Monday 10 February 2014

Why We Should Be Excited By First Stage of Renewal Consultation

The first round of renewal consultation has been released and while we are still wading through all the analysis it is encouraging to see that the key points raised by traders have been included.
In fact, not only have they been included but the strength of issues seems to have been picked up. Car parking was a major concern for traders, particularly from the food area, and this issue has been highlighted in the consultation report.
At an in-depth consultation with 17 GMT Traders on 19th November, a unanimous resolution was passed that traders preferred a multi-storey car park to an underground car park for safety, cost and disruption reasons.  That has been recorded. At the same meeting the importance of families in the trader make-up was highlighted. That has been recorded.
The point is that trader’s views are showing up as we hoped they would. The other point is that maintaining a strong interest in all these issues and being diligent in our examination will ensure that our voice is heard.
Having the opportunity to express our views and ultimately influence the direction of renewal is an exciting prospect. Traders are urged to add to the conversation at anytime on this website or direct with your QVMAC Representative. 

Sunday 9 February 2014

Renewal Progress – First Round Consultation

The first round of renewal consultation with stakeholders (including traders) and community has been completed. You can read the full report here (click here) or we have drawn some highlights from the Executive Summary of the report below.

- A series of strategic projects are scheduled to take place over the next 5 – 10 years.
- Engagement took place with customers, traders, CoM and QVM staff, local residents and visitors.
- A deeper level of engagement took place with highly impacted stakeholders including traders and QVM staff.
- Common themes included the experience of the market, its location, its “Melbourne-ness”, and variety within the market.
- “Atmosphere” was the most common word used by participants describing what they loved about the market.
- Colours, sounds, smells, noises and a sense of space were all noted.
- Community and culture were key themes.
- A culture of local produce and locally made products was considered important.
- Cost, variety, quality and sustainability were important.
- Suggested market improvements included stall/shop directories, shed maintenance, lighting, more open space, and eating socialising areas.
- General Merchandise was highlighted as needing improvements in quality, variety and design.
- The Night Market was described as one of the most valued and popular events at the market.
- Car parking was a major concern for traders.
- Restoring, revealing and rediscovering were considered more important than radical change.

Some initial renewal concepts will now be developed and feedback sought in round 2 of the consultation process which will be undertaken April 2014.

There is much more detail in the full report including things like criticism of the General Merchandise area, concerns about car parking, and a push for more relevant trading hours.

Have Your Say – click here.

Latest Retail News – 8/2/2014

Latest Retail News – 8/2/2014

1. David Jones says it will reconsider Myer merger plans.
2. Zara to open 7th Australian store.
3. Amazon returns to profit in 2013.
4. Walmart issues profit warning for 4th quarter.
5. Dunn & Bradstreet report improved business confidence for first half 2014.
6. Country Road reports 26.4% sales increase for 6 months to December based largely on acquisitions.
7. Shell considers selling its 900 Australian service stations.
8. Westfield trials “click’n’collect” service 
9. World’s largest watch maker, Swatch, reports global profit rise of 20% in 2013.
10. Billabong plans sale of two online retailers.
11. Australian cosmetics retailer, Aesop, opens 9th store in Hong Kong.
12. Melbourne Central reports 3 million visitors during Australian Tennis Open.
13. Aldi builds $70m warehouse in Adelaide in preparation for expansion.

Best Super Bowl Ad

US Football's Super Bowl attracts some amazing advertising spending and this year one of the best ads came from retailer Radio Shack -

Positive Economy Trends

Analysts were surprised by a plus $468 million trade surplus in December after forecasting up to minus $300 million deficit. The November trade deficit was also revised to a modest surplus of $83 million. Exports jumped 4 per cent in December and imports rose 2 per cent.

Meanwhile, retail sales were up 0.5% in December which contributed to a 5.4% rise over the year.

Short Bits

- The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel has failed to impact on local business according to some Harbour Town shop owners. The wheel was re-launched in December after a 4 year delay for repairs.

- Starbucks are to experiment with a pre-ordering system that will allow customers to order and pay for their coffee in advance. The aim is to reduce customer waiting time and Starbucks say they are ready to work through any logistics issues.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Renewal Heats Up

 It is not just Melbourne weather heating up but the first round of QVM Renewal Consultation has been released and along with it some insight into how renewal will be run and by whom. There is a 59 page report on the CoM website but here are a few things we picked up in a quick scan.

For the full document - click here

The proposed Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal Project is a major initiative to preserve and renew the Queen Victoria Market, creating an expanded market precinct.

Key themes emerging from the first phase of community and stakeholder engagement include:
  sense of place
  community and culture
  produce and products
  heritage
  transport and access
  tourism and marketing
  sustainability and economy
  future renewal implementation.

The second phase of community engagement will be undertaken in April 2014 and will ask community and stakeholders for feedback on a draft Conceptual Framework for the market and surrounding precinct.

Governance Structure:

Membership of Work Groups:
Working Groups will comprise a range of technical experts, operational staff (from CoM and QVM) and stakeholders (eg. Market traders or business owners) and will be established for various tasks and work streams as the project develops.

Draft Conceptual Framework:

Monday 3 February 2014

Food Trends for 2014

The following link will take you to an article about food trends on The Wall Street Journals Market Watch website. It is US focussed but will be of interest to our QVM food traders. Any article that mentions chocolate flavoured toothpaste has got to be worth reading - right?

Myer David Jones Merger Proposal

As the retail industry searches for responses to a dramatic loss of sales, online competition, shrinking margins and changing customer habits, news of a proposed merger between department store giants Myer and David Jones has emerged.

Apparently the $3 billion merger approach by Myer was made at the end of October and has since been rejected by the David Jones board. It was claimed that there were significant benefits from the plan including merging management structures, back-end systems and closing some stores. The plan was to retain the two store’s identities but more clearly differentiate their offers and appeal to a broader customer base.

The rejection of the proposal probably won’t put an end to merger speculation as retail entities, large and small, look for ways of adjusting to the biggest change in retail since the 1960’s.

Sunday 2 February 2014

A Considerate Trader

We have published many complaints on this website about traders who do the wrong thing by the market. Things like parking their vehicles on Peel St. and blocking tourist buses, or parking their vehicles in empty stalls and making the whole market look like a car park. Or perhaps it involves cluttering empty stalls with storage boxes and once again making the market look untidy.

Well here is a trader who has done the right thing and covered his vehicle so it doesn’t look like an eyesore. Ideally traders will store their boxes and cars in designated areas but if cars are to be parked in stalls then this is probably a suitable compromise. Well done Michael.

Have Your Say - click here.

Celebrities In QVM Food Court

Our food court has been graced with a huge painting of Australian entertainment celebrities. The 6 metre painting was originally completed for Variety, the children’s charity, and has been presented for display at the market by David Mann, 3AW’s “Mann about town” and a Director of QVM Pty. Ltd.

The painting is a fascinating record of Australian entertainers and is sure to attract a lot of attention from visitors to the market.

A Disappointing Shopping Trip

I’m a bit of a techno geek and the opportunity to buy a new stylus (pen) for my iPad filled me with shopping excitement. I understand that not everybody gets excited about a stylus but my experience is relevant across the whole buying spectrum so please stay with me here.

What I found was that doing online research before a shopping trip can create an expectation that is not always achievable when you go shopping. If you are a retailer that can be a problem. If a customer comes into your shop having done some online research and your product range bears no resemblance to what they have seen online, your ability to sell is going to be more difficult. Here is my experience.

A stylus is the sort of item that I would seriously consider buying on line, but on this occasion I decided to shop bricks’n’mortar in Melbourne’s CBD. Like most of my techno purchases I did some research online before heading off to shop. The idea of the stylus was to enable me to write hand-written notes on my iPad. Long periods of writing would require that the stylus was comfortable and worked well so I was very keen to read about the experience of others before I committed my $20 or $30.

There are many reviews on the web. Stylus’s (or is it stylii?) are common tools in the graphic industry and there are a surprising number of suppliers. My search revealed there were 4 or 5 key brands that had recorded good results and Melbourne has 3 or 4 dedicated pen shops plus a variety of technological outlets like Dick Smith and Officeworks, that I could try out. What I really wanted to do was try the stylus on my iPad to make sure it worked, and this is where the problem started.

The chain stores usually seal their products in elaborate packaging so it is often difficult to try them out. That was certainly the case with stylus’s. The pen shops had unpackaged examples but none of them had the 4 or 5 key brands I was looking for and instead of $20 or $30 I was looking at $50 to $70 for a good stylus.

The problem was that there was a disconnect between my online expectations and what I found in the specialty shops. Maybe it was difficult for Melbourne’s pen shops to get the brands I was after. (Although strangely, Officeworks had one of the top brands available but only online) I wanted one of those pen shops to have at least 2 or 3 of the top global brands in store for me to try and they would have got my business. In the end I bought a packaged item from Dick Smith for $20 and luckily it works fine.

To get to the point after that long lead up – do your products meet expectations for the customers who research online before they come to see you? A lot of customers are googling their purchases and what they learn online, rightly or wrongly, becomes the standard. For these customers, you need to have the type of product, and hopefully the brand, that is featured online to have a good chance of completing the sale. Just another hurdle we need to jump over to meet the demands of modern consumerism.