Target takes on showrooming


Target has a new approach to deal with showrooming that I believe is a step in the wrong direction.

Showrooming is the name for what people do when they go to a retailer, browse around and find something they like. Then they take out their smart phone, take a picture of the barcode and, using any of a variety of apps, get instant price comparisons from other nearby retailers.

More likely than not, they buy that item online or maybe at a competitor. It’s a huge problem for traditional retailers that have to paying rent, pay employees and pay for inventory.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Target has told vendors they want unique product model numbers and features on their stock so the Red Retailer can’t be showroomed; the only prices that will come up when you try to showroom a particular bar code will be Target’s own! When it’s not possible to get special products, Target has asked suppliers to basically take less money so the retailer can be comparably priced with competitors.

This might come as a surprise, but there is precedent for all this.

Go try to compare mattress costs. You can’t. Sealy, Serta and Simmons have done something similar for as far back as I can remember. Their mattresses all have unique names and model numbers so you have no way to comparison shop. The idea is a mattress is sold by marketing, not by price.

Here’s my thing: Target offers an experience people really like, which is how they’ve become the second largest discount store in the country. That’s really saying something. I believe their mission should be to win the loyalty of their “guests” (customers) based on the continued positive shopping experience they create at the store — not trying to manipulate model numbers.

Competition from showrooming should make retailers better, not extinct.

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