Bricks-and-mortar stores vs. online shopping: what's the advantage?

I read about how online shopping is out doing conventional store business, but something doesn’t quite sound right.
Specifically, the online sale requires that the merchandise be shipped to the buyer, necessitating a shipping charge. It seems to me that this negates any convenience of shopping from your home computer, because you’re paying more for the merchandise than you would if you went into a store.
I commented on this a while back in a thread about ordering spaghetti in restaurants; the putative online - ordered item would be a jar of spaghetti sauce.

Not necessarily. If the overhead costs of the online retailer are sufficiently below those of the brick-and-mortar store, the total cost could still be less. And often is.

Also, there is the issue of online sellers frequently avoiding the need to collect sales tax.

Brick and Mortar stores also have shipping costs, to get their inventory to their stores; they then bake those costs into their final prices. Also, B&M stores have a lot of costs related to the stores themselves (rent, upkeep, utilities, sales associates, etc.) that are either non-existent or much less for online companies.

Online stores, with their advantages in inventory management, logistics, warehousing, etc. can often beat the price of a B&M store.

As far as shipping costs, I probably pay for shipping on about 2% of my online orders, either because of Amazon Prime or special offers.

I don’t shop for groceries online (mostly), but I do get most other items shipped to me. I don’t have to drive anywhere. I don’t have to find parking. Items are often cheaper online, and the sales tax is less. If I order from Amazon, I’m a Prime customer so I get items delivered usually within 48 hours. The $99 a year I pay for Prime is well worth it in time savings, and I don’t have to worry about additional shipping charges.

Also, some of us would gladly pay more to avoid going to a mall or other shopping venue.

There are some things that I want to see and handle physically before I buy them. cabbages for example. Other things, like a computer component is going to be exactly the same whatever the buying method.

The problem lies in the middle. If I need a new cooker, I want to see a real one first; try out the handles and knobs and see if I like the look of it. Then I will probably buy it online from a warehouse. The shop with the physical product gets no profit from that.

Some B&M shops are trying to solve this by having the displays and stock, but also offering deliveries direct from the warehouse at competitive prices. I am sure that this trend will continue.

Brick-and-mortar: if they have your item in stock, you can get it into your grubby hands within the hour. The downside is that you’re paying for a nice-looking store in a convenient-to-you location (i.e. sitting on expensive real estate), and all of the wage-earning sales people wandering the floor. Someone(s) is busy keeping track of how much inventory is in the back, AND how much is out on the sales floor. Someone else is ringing up your purchase. A whole team of people and cameras are working behind the scenes to make sure customers don’t steal shit - and plenty of people manage to do so anyway, the cost of which is embedded in the price of the item you are honestly buying.

Online: you can almost always get your item cheaper, since inventory is warehoused in a plain-looking building that isn’t swarming with a paid sales staff, and is located on cheap land, and doesn’t have customers occasionally stealing things (and a loss prevention team being paid to cut down on that). Amazon even minimizes paid warehouse staff by using robots to gather items for many orders. The result is that even though you’re paying to have that one item shipped to your door, you can usually get it for quite a bit less than if you buy it at the nearest brick-and-mortar store. If you don’t mind waiting a couple of days.

While merchants are not (yet) required to collect sales tax on interstate purchases, the buyer typically is supposed to pay a “use tax” in the state in which he will be using the item. This is typically equal to the sales tax that would have been collected by a local merchant on an in-state purchase. IOW, if you’re an honest taxpayer, then the lack of tax collection by online merchants isn’t any sort of advantage.

Which might be a negative, to the extent that sales taxes in the buyers’ own communities support expenditures that benefit them, or reduce the call for other local taxation.

It’s NOT conveinent for some of us to travel to a B&M store. The travel alone can cost more than the shipping to my PO box.

Add in the time factor, and I’ll always take ordering online over a store.

Or take clothes/shoe buying. I know my size and what I like. I can find that online. Often I can not find what I like or my size in a B&M store. So I waste a trip.

If you’re concerned about paying shipping costs, how much does it cost you to fire up the car, drive a couple of miles to the store, park, walk around the store, find the item, buy it, get back in your car and drive home?

If it takes an hour of your day to shop for the item in a store, how much is an hour of your time worth? How much does it cost in terms of gas, car depreciation, and parking to drive to the store?

Sometimes this is nearly free. If the store is on the way home from work, and it takes 5 minutes to park, run into the store, grab the item, and get back on the road then your personal “shipping” charge of going to the store and delivering it to your house is pretty low. But for lots of items it’s a big hassle to “ship” the item yourself.

Another thing is that at a conventional retailer, someone has to deliver the item to your house, so that gas and time is baked into the price somehow. But a joint like Amazon (or the shippers it contracts with) can exploit efficiencies like “I have 10 customers in the same area, so I’ll put all of their orders on one truck and only make one trip” a lot more easily than individual consumers can. In a lot of cases (probably most), letting the retailer do the shipping makes the actual cost in gas/time/labour used to deliver the goods lower overall.

I found a disadvantage to ordering online in a slightly different setting–grocery ordering–that became somewhat unsatisfactory.
I offered to order groceries for my Mom, online, since my car is not running. I went to the website with my shopping list, filled out the order, and arranged payment and delivery–which would be within a specific period, within a few hours.
The driver failed to show up and I called to complain. He eventually did come, an hour after the “window” ended.
Not all of the items I ordered were in the delivery. My Mom was furious with the driver and threatened to report him. He said that the “shoppers” (store crew responsible for loading his truck) failed to do their work on time and he had to do most of it. They failed, he said, to load the refrigerated/frozen items. I arranged for them to be delivered later.
He returned with the remaining items within two hours–they had been set almost out of view in back of his truck.
When I called the service number back I pointed out that the driver should have let’s us know he would be delayed.
There are disadvantages to online ordering. :frowning:

I get around on a moped, or sometimes the bus. Having large items shipped to me is much more convenient than buying them in person.
I work third shift, and am either preparing for bed or asleep during the hours most stores are open.

For those two reasons, ordering online is usually the better option for me.

However, there are some goods I need to see in person before I purchase. Sometimes it is an issue of quality (is that coin-sorter heavy duty, or a kid’s toy?), or sizing (pants and shirts can be “close enough”, but shoe sizes vary widely from one manufacturer to the next, and a tiny bit too big or small will be very uncomfortable), but sometimes it is just that I’ve never been good at delayed gratification: if you get my money today then I want to be holding my stuff today.

So I pay more for my shoes because I need to try them on before I buy them. (I know some companies do free returns. It isn’t the same, and I am the kind of person who will mean to send them back, but never get around to it.) And I pay more for my groceries because it is totally worth it to have the store drive them to my house instead of having to take a cab.

This works both ways: when ordering online, you spend an hour, (or several hours), waiting at home for the delivery. I’d rather control my own schedule. I go to the store when it’s convenient for me…not when it’s convenient for the delivery guy.

I don’t have to wait around for a delivery person. I come home from work and there’s a package on my porch. Sometimes I forgot I ordered something, so it’s like a little give to future me.

Sometimes I just like to go to a brick and mortar store and shop. I can get practically any book ever written delivered to my door for free in two days via Amazon Prime…but sometimes I like to walk into a book store and look through the shelves.

There’s also the “supporting local businesses” angle.

That’s a fair point about supporting local merchants. There are some things I like to browse and some things I buy just as commodities; I wouldn’t want to buy furniture unless I could see it in person for example, but a gallon jug of dish detergent is a gallon jug of dish detergent.

If you feel compelled to wait around at home for the UPS guy to drop off your shipment, then yes, that’s a strong disincentive to online shopping. Thankfully I live in a neighborhood where the sort of porch theft that’s been in the news lately is virtually unheard of, so I don’t mind waiting until I come home from work to bring my packages indoors.

I have everything shipped to my PO box, which is convenient to my work commute. If an on-line merchant refuses to ship to my PO box they don’t get my business.

Some things I want to purchase in person, such as produce. Some, such as work shoes, I pretty much have to order on-line because it seems no store stocks my size anymore and they’d just have to special order them for me anyway.

I like having both options.

I prefer B&M. I want to see something before I buy it. Returning shipped items is a major pain. Apparently a lot of people feel differently.