Dubbo can take on the online stores... and win
THE unveiling late last week of plans for a major redevelopment at the old Liberal building by Steve Guy from MAAS Group Family Properties could well be a sign of greater things to come for Dubbo’s CBD.
This newspaper has been actively pushing the need for local people to shop locally more often for as long as we’ve been publishing.
But we can only do so much urging and cajoling to get people to spend locally – the solution has to include a continually evolving and modernising main street area, dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ to make sure the shopping experience in Dubbo has an unbeatable ‘wow’ factor.
Lacklustre customer service from any one person in anyone store will let us all down. You only have to read the Thumbs Down that appear in this paper periodically to know that bad service happens here.
If we want to beat Amazon and the other online behemoths (please name one that actually contributes to the Dubbo economy), we have to make the local shopping experience better than them.
One of the most successful big retailers in the US at the moment is Best Buy. They’re profitable and the company share price is on the rise because they’re doing lots of things right. They’re doing more than just matching Amazon’s online prices, they’re also making sure their customer service is spot-on.
Best Buy is offering things that you can’t get when you buy from an online store in another country, for example Best Buy staff are being trained to provide in-home installations for many products. Let’s see Amazon do that with one of its automated drones!
Similar offers are being made here in Dubbo, with at least one major retailer offering to set up your big screen TV (above an advertised price) at your home and make sure it’s properly tuned.
Now that the initial excitement of online shopping has passed, shoppers are starting to crave the “touching feeling” aspect of shopping in a store. They can visit a store and make sure the new shoes or dress fit, they want to see how a new kitchen gadget works before they buy, and even the good old book is winning over electronic tablets because people crave the feeling of the page between their fingers.
So, once you have them in store, the next challenge is to minimise the possibility of “showrooming”, that’s the retailing word for when someone comes in to your store, makes sure the pair of shoes they want fit, then goes away and buys them online.
Give them stuff they can’t get online, like unbeatable customer service and great instore experiences.
It may not even be necessary to match or beat online prices. According to a new study by US service company Walker, 86 per cent of buyers claim that they are willing to pay more in return for a better customer experience.
All retailers need to accept that they no longer have geographical boundaries to help protect them from international big business. But offshore onliners are far from unbeatable. We just need to be smarter, and more agile, and to offer local shoppers something they can’t get anywhere else.
Major developments such as ‘The Liberal Building Concept’ announced by MAAS are also crucial to keeping our main street modern and vibrant. You need to add this announcement to other big projects being planned or seriously suggested for our CBD. As we reported previously in Dubbo Photo News, plans have been drawn up for the former Harold W Taylor building, now a Telstra store, for a multi-level development.
And I see that the building at 1 Church Street, below Westpac, is being suggested as ideal for major redevelopment too.
There are many other factors that will help make an irresistible CBD, but for now the last I want to raise is making sure each and every ground level store brings people – and ideally shoppers – into the main street. For a while there, a few too many main street sites were being occupied by secondary service businesses that didn’t really need to be on the main street. Keep it real retail, and to the credit of the development proposals we’re currently seeing, that’s exactly what’s being planned – stores, restaurants and cafes that are easily accessible from the street, with apartments and/or hotel accommodation above.
It is good to see commercial operators prepared to get in there and make it happen.