I have become a full-on card-carrying Amazonian. Not a strong and beefy lady warrior, I mean an Amazon shopping addict. I used not to be primarily for reasons like not being able to try things on or touch them, (I still like to squeeze the peaches for grocery shopping too).
Enter "showrooming", the bane of brick and mortar stores. If you're not familiar with this term, it's the practice of examining items in real stores, then cheekily buying it online elsewhere, often at a cheaper price. However, this past weekend I was at a shopping crossroads, standing in a store looking at a lovely product that I wanted to buy. A quick Amazon check on my omnipresent smartphone revealed a similar product at a lower cost. I could have "showroomed" and clicked "buy" there and then. I almost did. But then I thought, if everyone did that, this store, one of my favorites in my community, could fade away and one day close down. And then I would be a total hypocrite for complaining about the neighborhood losing its flavor.
How many Manhattan neighborhoods have already undergone the loss of mom and pop stores, small boutiques and eateries? Eventually, the only outfits able to afford the rent in my area will be banks and generic big box chain stores. The worst aspects of suburbanization creeping into residential urban communities.
I've always been a conscientious buyer of Australian-made products (something the Australian government has also encouraged for decades with its "Australian Made" campaign), but now I need to also be a conscientious buyer of neighborhood products. A book store also recently opened in the 'hood. A book store, you say! How can they possibly compete with Barnes & Noble down the road, and online behemoths like Amazon? Well, they most likely can't, at least from a profit point of view. But when I took my son the other day, I realized that this was so much more than just a bookstore. It was a meeting place for the community. They had filled the beautiful space with literary events and activities, built on the idea of "The Shop Around the Corner" from the movie You've Got Mail - a real-life store that eventually was unable to compete and closed down. And while this place's prices are comparatively high, the amazing store experience they have created is enough to get me and hopefully others to sometimes make the choice to step away from the online click button and put my hands in my wallet and buy local.
And before I let you go, the Australian Amazon site is a wasteland compared to the US version. Apart from some cloud services, it's barely hatched out of the book-selling egg. As one Aussie relative recently exclaimed, "so Amazon now sells more than books, does it?" Frustrating for Australian online shopping addicts, but great news for their neighborhood.