I was recently shopping at Chapters.Indigo, Canada’s largest retail bookstore, and was eager to pick up a couple of books on my reading list, when I noticed that the prices were about 20% higher in-store. Prices are cheaper on-line, shipping is free with purchases of more than $40, and books typically ship within 1-3 days.  This pricing policy does not make sense to me. How important is it for brick & mortar retailers to have consistent pricing across channels? Should your on-line store have the same prices as your brick & mortar stores? Does it matter if you could buy on-line but not pick-up or return at one of their stores? Many retailers still operate their on-line and physical locations as two separate entities that just happen to have the same name. 

Does Chapters even want me in their store? Chapters sells a lot more stuff than books, like gifts, candies, CDs, games, etc. I would NEVER buy one of those items on-line, but if I’m browsing through the store I am a lot more likely to pick something up on my way to the cash.

credit: Steve Brandon

If you read through this thread, where consumers discuss Chapter’s pricing practice (http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-502505.html), you quickly understand how this simply frustrates the consumer.

To be fair, I understand that Chapters has stiff price competition on-line, with the likes of Amazon, and there is a cost to operating large format bookstores, where users can browse, touch, read, and enjoy that in-store experience. Nonetheless, this pricing policy is frustrating and it cannot continue forever. So what can they do? I think brick & mortar retailers, like Chapters, actually have an advantage over their e-commerce-only counterparts. They can offer consumers more ways to shop. Give them options:

  • Shop on-line and ship to you (with appropriate shipping fees)
  • Shop on-line and ship to a location near you (at no additional cost, since item might already be there or deliveries are made to your store all the time anyway).
  • Browse on-line, reserve item at a location near you, and go to store to complete the purchase.
  • Return any item in any store or by shipping (even if bought at a store).

Brick & mortar retailers need to figure out how to operate as one entity to the consumer, without confusion. If retailers do this right and have channel consistency, I think brick & mortar retailers would gain an advantage over their e-commerce counterparts. Am I missing something here? Have you had similar frustrating experiences? What do you think brick & mortar retailers can do better to improve their on-line/in-store shopping experience?