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Retailers That Don't Get It - Dick's Sporting Goods

Dicks Sporting Goods

How Dick's Sporting Goods lost a pre-determined sale to the internet

A recent experience with Dick's Sporting Goods was a perfect example of what's wrong with retailers and their old-world mindset. I needed to buy a youth hunting rifle for my oldest son. He'd just turned 12 and was ready for his first big game season. A trip to our local Dick's Sporting Goods was supposed to be the only thing standing between us and a shooting range. It didn't work out that way, and it went so poorly I ended up buying online instead of in-store. It was Dick's inability to serve my needs that blew a guaranteed sale.

How I ended up at Dick's ready to buy

I knew I needed to buy my son Mason a rifle soon. Where would I turn to research? The internet of course. I do all my research online because it's not 1992 anymore. So I go after it, identifying a few models in the caliber I preferred.

A couple weeks later, I found myself at a Dick's Sporting Goods while shopping for baseball gear. I swing into the sporting goods department looking to see if they had the make and model I was looking. I was helped by a really knowledgeable man who showed me what they had in stock. They had just the model I was looking for, in the wrong caliber. Shit.

No to worry the man explained, I can order what I want and they can bring it in. That was a great solution, but I was short on time. I decided not to go through with the order, instead opting to take down the item number and come back when I had more time. Looking back, that was a mistake.

A couple of weeks later, I drop Mason off for baseball practice and have time to kill. I run up the street to Dick's to order the gun. After about 10 minutes lingering around the sporting goods department with no one there to help me I walk back up to the front and ask them to send someone. The woman behind the counter says she'll call someone back there. I return to the gun section and wait. And wait....

Eventually I'm greeted by someone with 'Manager' on their name badge. I tell him what I'm trying to do, explaining that I took down all the information on my last visit. I just need help placing the order.

"I'm sorry, I can't help you place a special order", the manager explained. "You should come back on Tuesday, when "Cliff" is working."

"WTF", I think to myself. That's ridiculous. I explain my situation to him. "Common man, I don't live anywhere close to here. I'm in the area today only. Are you sure there's no one that can help me?"

He gets on the radio. After a short conversation with someone who clearly didn't care, he replies: "I'm sorry Sir, there's nobody working at this time with that authorization. Cliff is the only one that can place special orders."

"Authorization for what? I'm just trying to place an order", I say.

"Sorry Sir, you might try our other store. They have a better selection anyway."

"Yeah, that does sound convenient. Thanks bud." 

Then I did what I think nearly everyone does these days. I took my business elsewhere. These days, I think this is where the stakes have become even higher for retailers. I have a lot of choice in I didn't take my business to the Walmart up the street. I didn't go to Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop. Frustrated by my retailer experience, I went home and got online. 

Retailers better take customer service seriously

Dick's inability to serve me at the time I was ready to purchase and in their store was a serious let down. Consumers have high expectations these days because they have so much choice. The also have the convenience of the internet, not only for research, but for purchase as well. Even guns can be bought online (which legally requires the transfer through a FFL)

In a matter of minutes, I had a listing of options for the exact make, model, and caliber I was looking on

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It really makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking in the first place. I thought it'd be a better purchase experience to go into a store than online. I was wrong because of a few important reasons that I think retailers must be aware of.

  1. Customer service matters. You better do better than Dick's at putting knowledgeable people in every corner of your store. This is an area that brick and mortar retailers should hold as an advantage over online retailers. If they blow it here, what makes them relevant at all? 
  2. Selection matters. Retail store fronts are at a real disadvantage here. It's nearly impossible for local businesses to compete with the vast selection that comes from a centralized distribution center. Even giant retailers like Dick's struggle to keep inventory consistent across all locations. They also lack the 'shelf space' to really offer a wide variety of items compared to online giants like Amazon.
  3. Buying power matters. In today's business environment, you can't alienate your customers. A failure to serve is a failure to retain. Retailers have to work hard to earn and keep consumer's business because they can lose it so easily. When I get let down by a retailer I have way more options than I used to. Sorry Walmart, you suck too. The last thing I want to do is walk through a million isles and people to arrive at an under-staffed department where no one knows anything about what I'm buying.

Retails better wise up

People still prefer buy a lot of things in-person. It's not like brick and mortar is completely dead. Yet. However, traditional retailers have to adapt if they're going to survive. If they don't figure out how to serve consumers throughout the entire buyer's journey, they're going down. There's a massive shift underway in the way consumers shop and it's all tied to the internet. Retailers better wise up, before it's too late. 

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