BAHAMIAN retailers yesterday said they have fallen victim to the “showroom effect” with consumers using them as ‘fitting rooms’ before purchasing online.
Steve Hoffer, chief executive of Hoffer Sport, one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the Bahamas, told Tribune Business that many customers were using local merchants to ‘try-on’ or ‘try-out’ items only to purchase them online.
“What a lot of people do nowadays is they go into a store, spend an hour trying everything, and go online and order it, and that’s especially with name brand apparel and footwear. We are starting to turn into showrooms. It’s a problem in the US as well. It’s happening with footwear, clothing or whatever,” he explained.
Mr Hoffer said issues such as the cost of freight, import duties and logistics were “only slightly” levelling the playing field for Bahamian retailers. “We have to do things a bit differently,” he added.
“The online shopping trend is affecting everyone. It’s a worldwide trend, and that is why we see malls in the United States shutting down. Online shopping has really taken off in the last few years.”
Mr Hoffer said Bahamian retailers would likely see some business from last-minute shoppers this Christmas season, arguing that local retail prices were becoming increasingly competitive despite the tax system-imposed disadvantages. He added that retail sales have been “way down” this year due to hurricanes and the economy, and said: “We’re going to gauge things for the next couple of days. I don’t expect a banner year in retail, but I can’t really put my thumb on it yet.”
Charmaine Daley, manager at John’s Shoes and Accessories on Carmichael Road, told Tribune Business she had witnessed a boost in customer traffic this past weekend, and expects sales to increase further as Christmas draws closer.
“We saw sales pick up this past Saturday. I would say that persons have started their shopping. On Saturday we were bombarded with customers. That has spilled over to this week. The real rush hasn’t started yet, though, and I expect our sales to further increase this weekend,” she said.