I’ve been writing about consumer electronics and brick and mortar retailing for the better part of the last two and a half years, since joining the Dealerscope team. I hate to admit this, but I could probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve walked into a Best Buy in that time. Most of what I talk about with regard to CE retail strategy and the direction the industry is heading comes from personal experience working at retail and through things learned in conversation with the bright minds working behind the scenes in CE retail.
Never, though, have I been so sure about the importance and future of brick and mortar CE retail than the personal experience I had over a recent weekend. So bear with me as I do a little storytelling.
Since upgrading the television in my main entertainment room at home, I’ve wanted to mount the thing to the wall it had been sitting in front of. We’re talking about a 65-inch TV being mounted to a wall that’s in a room that was an addition to a nearly 90-year-old home. Plenty of problems existed, including needing some extra physical help to get the job done, my own fear of mounting a TV to a wall, and not knowing what exactly we were dealing with from a structural perspective—none of which I’d have been able to overcome without the help of family (thanks, Pops-In-Law), and brick and mortar retailing.
After researching different mounts and options online—and considering purchasing everything through that channel—I opted to take the time to go in-person to get a good look at what exactly I was getting myself into.
That resulted in a quick trip to a local Best Buy. The options were fairly limited in comparison to an online showroom of course, and I ended up spending a little more for a brand name mount (you’re welcome, Sanus). But for those extra few bucks, I received in-person advice and support that provided me the peace of mind an online transaction would never have. Jim (that’s what we’ll call him here) was exceptionally knowledgeable and had answers to all sorts of questions about properly mounting the rig to a flimsy drywall. He knew what came in the box—even offering to open it up so I could get a look inside—and had suggestions for additional hardware I should consider purchasing at another local store for added stability. Short of coming home with us to put the mount up, Jim provided a level of service that would make any CE retailer proud, and he gave me the confidence that I made the right purchase and would be able to get the job done on my own.
Inevitably, there were some hiccups along the way once the actual installation began. We discovered, for example, that the drywall was installed just a few inches from an old stonewall—just close enough that the molly fasteners we bought for extra support wouldn’t fit. With holes already drilled in the wall and the mounting bracket half installed, we weren’t going to just stop and wait for a two-day Amazon Prime delivery to show up with the necessary hardware. Instead, we hopped back in the car, trucked it to the nearest local hardware store and explained the situation to the more-than-helpful employees on hand.
Their suggestion involved masonry-grade screws that were capable of being drilled straight into the stone. That, in turn, provided us with even sturdier support than the molly fasteners would have. Fast forward maybe 30 minutes later, we’re back home, the mount was perfectly secured against the wall with a 65-inch TV hanging from it.
There is a certain level of seamlessness that comes with ordering products online. They ship right to your front door, you don’t have to leave home or deal with upselling-happy salespeople, and the selection is endless. But what I learned in the course of completing this weekend project is that not even e-commerce has the ability to provide the immediacy and intimacy needed to problem solve. From Jim at Best Buy to the group of local hardware shop employees—they all recognized my needs, helped me address them, and I was able to get the job done in maybe a few hours.
That experience alone is enough to convince me of the staying power of brick and mortar retail. When done right, physical stores can provide a level of efficiency and convenience that is unmatched.