Recently I was made aware of a fellow bloggers situation when they posted about a great deal on the Internet for a cycling accessory. This blogger just happens to also work at a local bike shop and one of the shops outside reps got offended by the post. The rep sent a negatively worded e-mail to the blogger, essentially saying that the blogger needed to be more loyal to the local bike shops and not to undermine their sales by posting on this deal.
Okay folks, rant mode: ON
There are several things wrong with this, and I think a lot of them have to do with the fact that most people in business are still stuck in the 20th Century. If you really believe that your core cycling freaks don't already know what cycling related items are being sold at online, then you are worse than an ostrich with it's head in the sand. To have similar/same items in your store at substantially higher prices and expect even your sales people to look blindly the other way when trying to sell the stuff is asking for miracles. Even your sales people are hip to the Internet, probably more so than anybody.
So in essence what is going on is that in several cases we are expected to stand by and wait for some non-suspecting, gullible person to walk into that store and buy the item without questioning the price. Which is what we do most of the time. However; knowledge is a powerful thing and hard to handle sometimes. For instance, what do you say when a customer asks you if you can get the item cheaper? What do you say when a customer tells you that the item is cheaper online?
I think you can only go so far conscientiously as a sales person. There is a point where the lie has to stop and the truth be told, because in all honesty, that pricing information isn't hidden under a rock anymore. Sure, there are items that will be found a lot cheaper online, but there are lots of things that won't be that bike shops can survive on.
The best thing a bike shop can offer a customer isn't bikes. Heck, MallWart sells bikes, but they are not the paragon of a bike shop experience either. No, it's something else that makes a bike shop better. It's service. It's helping the customer out and creating a relationship that makes customers want to talk to you concerning anything bicycle related. My belief is that a healthy relationship between a shop and customer sometimes means that you admit that you can't sell something cheaper than you can get it online. You are being truthfull and the customer will be drawn to that quality more than they would if you tried to bluff your way into a sale with them.
That's my take. I think a lot of folks need to wake up to the reality that it's more about the service and relationship with the customer and a lot less about the prices. If that happens in your bike shop, I know that a lot of people will buy items from a shop like that even if the prices are a bit higher because they are getting something else money can not buy.
Rant mode: Off!