Today's blog is from Andy Monefeldt, the manager of SHAR's Ann Arbor retail store. Andy makes the case for visiting SHAR's retail store in Ann Arbor. Sure, everyone will continue to shop online for a long time to come; that's not going to change. But perhaps there's something to be said for SHAR's retail store – you get the same great prices and wide selection but with unmatched in-person customer service.
Until a few years ago, I was doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online. Like most people, I didn’t find myself with a lot of free time to actually go shopping. I work full-time plus at SHAR Music, I play with three community orchestras in the area, and I have a studio of bass students, so it’s rare for my day to be over by the time I punch out for the evening. This means that there's usually a rehearsal somewhere from 7:30-10 at the end of my day, or a few students coming over for lessons after 6, with serious tennis ball interaction with my dog (an Austrailan Cattle Dog) shoehorned in between everything else. With such a hectic schedule, my free moments are nothing more than sweetly singing sirens luring me into the Rocks of Procrastination. All told, I am a world-class procrastinator when it comes to things like shopping.
For most holiday seasons, I generally knew what I was looking for, and while the stores around Ann Arbor (where I live!) had all of the items I was looking for, it was easier to be able to sit in my living room with a cup of hot chocolate, my feet up, and shop online. I could sit there, cozy and stationary, and search for anything that I could possibly want and have it shipped directly back home in time for Christmas. Then last year I procrastinated worse than usual, and while I could still find everything I needed online, there wasn’t enough time left to have things shipped before Christmas. So I jumped in my car and started driving frantically around Ann Arbor. I hit up Macy’s...Roo’s Roast (a great local coffee shop)...Barnes and Noble...REI. In the end, my feet-dragging didn’t matter: I found what I was looking for and also got a little something extra. I ended up purchasing an additional book, one that my brother hadn’t specifically asked for, but one that a store employee recommended to me. My brother loved it.
It's about being there. Holding the product in your hand. Asking a question. Asking ten questions. Being able to see similar widgets side-by-side. Turning the widget off and on...and then on and off. Trying it on and looking at yourself in the mirror. Looking at yourself in one of those half-circle mirrors. Asking three more questions. Having a conversation about all of these things with someone who knows about all of these things. Sitting in a chair and giving a thumbs up or down to whatever your shopping companion tries on in front of the mirror. Walking out of the store with your purchase after getting recommendations that weren’t computer-generated.
After my last Christmas experience, I put a chunk of thought into what it meant to buy something and if where I bought it mattered. What did it mean to a company to provide customer service? Internet shopping remains essential for me. I’ll always be a procrastinator until the day I retire (and even then I wonder if things will change). Yet the customer service that an actual store can provide is really indispensable, as well – something that I had forgotten about because it'd been so long since I had hit the pavement. The majority of the shops that I went to that day are part of a large chain and all have a large retail presence online: Macy’s, REI, and Barnes & Noble. But these companies, like SHAR, realize the importance of having a brick-and-mortar store that can provide a special experience and unmatched expertise. And I believe that more and more consumers are starting to realize this as well.
SHAR’s presence in both areas of retail drives each other. Our ability to offer a ton of different products at competitive prices in our store is a direct result of SHAR doing so much business over the Internet and having a huge warehouse stocked with all of these products. Our customer service at our store and this focus helps SHAR the online retailer keep expert customer service as one of its primary goals. This unique approach is a huge benefit for our customers, especially as more companies make the move towards an online-presence-only model of business. Our Internet business is there for our customers 24/7 but each time a customer makes the decision to come into the store, it is a vote of confidence in SHAR’s business model and strengthens our ability to be able to continue offering both avenues to all of the string players out there.
If you live in the Ann Arbor area and haven't visited our store, please do stop by. You can check out our hours and location here. We look forward to seeing you in person!