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Old style vs. new style buying

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Beneath the surface of all Christmas shopping that’s taking place now is a battle. It’s a battle over how we consumers buy. Who are the combatants? And where are they fighting? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“…, several decades ago, I’ll say four, I worked in … a retail furniture store, and buying there was very easy. People would come into the showroom. They looked at the furniture to decide what they wanted. If we had it in the warehouse, we delivered it to them the next day. If we didn’t, we ordered and delivered it to them a couple of weeks later. Very simple.

“Today, it’s all up in the air. And the reason, of course, is information technology. People can still go to what we call brick-and-mortar stores, like my old furniture store, look at things, touch ’em, feel ’em, try ’em on and buy them. Or they can sit in the comfort of their home — no crowds — have a nice cup of coffee nearby, warm, and buy over the internet.

“And so that, of course, has totally changed how we buy. And I think people have seen that buying over the internet continues to go up each year by double digit rates, while buying in brick-and-mortar stores is really just inching by.

“And what brick-and-mortar stores especially are having to contend with is how they compete. Do they continue to do what they’re doing and simply battle those internet buyers? Or do they perhaps also embrace internet buying and play up other things like, ‘Hey you can come in and touch and feel, try on what we have, then you can go home and buy over the internet.’?

“So, we’re looking at very, very interesting times, I think, as to how people buy, and we’re yet to settle that.”


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