Amazon was incorporated in July 1994, and the site went online as Amazon.com in 1995. Road Runner Sports was founded in September 1983 “with a simple goal to provide sports-minded people with the opportunity to purchase running and walking shoes, gear and apparel at a great value” or in simpler terms to undercut local brick and mortar stores to make a buck. I give you this short history lesson for a little background on our purchasing practices and will use my running shoe shopping/buying history as an example of our journey to online purchasing.
My current stable of running shoes is pretty worn so I recently went to our local New Balance Store to look at a couple new models of running shoes. I’ve been running since 1981 and have logged well over 30,000 miles so I have gone through a lot of shoes. I started with New Balance since they were the only ones who offered a wide shoe. I became a dedicated New Balance guy and ran with most of the runners who staffed the running stores. Most were accomplished runners who knew their stuff and really took time to give you a perfect fit. After a while I started wearing the same model and didn’t even have to try them on. Here’s where the online factor appears. I started receiving catalogs for Roadrunner Sports offering discounted prices and a wide variety of shoes including my favorites. The wide variety was important because the local stores had limited sizes, especially wide. It became a real dilemma for me: support the local economy or save a lot of money and time. Early on it wasn’t really internet sales but you’d receive a catalog and call in your order. This eventually morphed into internet ordering and a proliferation of online vendors with rock bottom prices that were hard to ignore. It became a real dilemma for me: support the local economy or save a lot of money and time. I am a fairly ethical person but buying shoes especially ones you don’t have to try on for as much as 50% of the local price is a no brainer. I also can order in front of the TV and have the exact product I needed in a couple days delivered to my front door. Most have free shipping and can compete with Jimmy John’s in speed of delivery.
Getting back to my current shoe replacement, I was interested in two new models, one an updated version of the one I’ve been wearing and another a fairly new model, both with specs that would work for me. I was close to just ordering the new model online that had a suck-you-in ad in Runner’s World but I wisely decided to hold off my purchase and visit the local New Balance store. With the global economy there is more worldwide outsourcing of manufacturing resulting in a crapshoot for sizing and quality. I tried on the new model and it felt awful with the heel lowered and not much cushioning. So I decided to default to my old faithful-the newer version of my last two pairs. I don’t know why but I decided to try them on too and much to my surprise (not really) the sizing had changed and I had to upsize for a good fit. “How much were these new beauties?” $130-Wow that shakes my loyalty to the locals a little! I slyly checked online with my iPhone to see if I could do better and I quickly saw that I could save at least $30 + the sales tax. But these guys really worked for my sale so they got it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all over the .com’s if: the price difference is huge or I feel the price is laughingly inflated or they don’t have my size available in-house or I’m dealing with a nitwit..
Our world is changing and internet buying is part of it. It’s hard to see all the locally owned stores closing, but there are sometimes a lot more reasons than price. I purchase locally when the prices are semi-reasonable, service is great and the salespeople seem like they know my sport and they don’t just try and put me in the shoe or product with the largest profit margin. I have to admit that I have been guilty of heading to the local store to see the shoe I’m going to order online. This often backfires because there’s no way I can wait to order after jogging around the store in a shoe that fits perfectly and really looks cool. Since I’ll be running in my new purchase for at least six months paying a little extra for a good fit is money well spent. So my purchasing pattern is now split. When I am replacing a shoe with the same model, I use the internet and when I have to try on a new model I stay local. It just feels good to support the local economy and the locals are the ones supporting our sport-I haven’t seen amazon on any of the local race sponsor lists or sponsor emblazoned Ts.