Would You Pay To Browse In Your Favorite Store?

Retail stores today have a problem.

It’s called “showrooming,” the tendency for customers to just browse in stores, but purchase online.

Retailers don’t like that, and they are finding innovative ways to deal with the phenomenon. (While also cursing Amazon.)

Pay A Toll To Enter A Store?

One potential solution is to charge a fee just to step into a store.

That’s what Celiac Supplies, a gluten-free grocery store near Brisbane Australia, decided to do.

They charge $5 for “just looking.” The store posted a notice about it on the front door that read: “As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for ‘just looking.’ The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.”

Meanwhile in China, Vera Wang decided to celebrate the opening of her new wedding boutique by announcing that “every potential customer at the Shanghai store will be charged 3,000 yuan ($482) simply to try on the gowns for sale.”

After a global outcry, she has changed her mind.  A Vera Wang spokeswoman told Reuters that the charge was being scrapped as of Wednesday. “Please kindly be informed that Vera Wang has abolished appointment fees at her bridal salons worldwide starting from 27 March 2013,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

According to NPR, a store in Australia decided to charge $50 to try on ski boots. The fee is waived if customers buy the boots in the store.

Selling Experiences In Addition To Goods?

Other retailers are coming up with alternative ways of dealing with the showrooming issue.

Sur La Table offers cooking classes; at REI and other outdoor stores, you can play on the rock-climbing walls; Dick’s Sporting Goods charges to try out their golf-swing simulators. That way even if shoppers don’t buy anything, the stores can still make some profit.

Certainly, we’ve seen the effect of the boom in online shopping for a while now: consider the fate of Borders, Circuit City, KB Toys, Linens ’n Things and Ritz Camera, all of which have filed for bankruptcy or liquidated.

Creating the Café or Restaurant at the Bookstore?

From The Washington Post:

During an interview on BBC this weekend, UK HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley referred to certain shoe shops that charge customers to try on merchandise. Perhaps, she suggested, bookstores could do that, too. The idea of asking customers to pay for the privilege of browsing physical books before purchasing them is “not that insane,” she said. Bookstores could become, in essence, “book clubs.”

Bookstores were among the first types of shops to run into trouble with showrooming, but increasingly they have found a way to sell books without depending on them to pay the rent. If you are familiar with Washington, D.C., you probably know Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle, which offers a wonderful restaurant and a bar alongside its books. Other bookstores are following similar models. It makes perfect sense.

Amazon, of course, is the arch-nemesis for many brick-and-mortar bookstores, but they are finding a way to get their revenge. Many stores, both small independents and chains, are refusing to stock books connected with Amazon.

So, for example, Barnes & Noble has decided not to stock New Harvest books in its 689 stores; New Harvest is a new collaboration between Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Amazon.

I love bookstores; sitting at home alone typing a book title into my computer does not come close to the experience of browsing in my favorite local bookstore. But showrooming is definitely taking a toll on retail merchants.

What do you think is the solution?


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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

Stupid idea! I love to just window shop!

Leslie Choquette
Leslie Choquette2 years ago

Not only do I not shop Amazon I truly prefer going into my favorites stores in person. The only few times I have ordered online has been from one of the stores like Kohl's because it was the only way to get the particular item. To me shopping is a social event and gets me out and about. Sitting at the computer may help focus needs from wants but there is no personal connection or immediate way to touch or see things in 3D so to speak. However, I would not pay to go into a store. Simply because as a consumer I have already spent money on transportation, time on the road, in the parking lot, perhaps a fee in a parking garage and taking the risks of being out in a public place. Book stores are a wonderful break from the usual errands and like any retail business have to stay a step ahead to keep folks coming back through the door. I for one would rather take the time to go in person to assist in assuring people can keep their jobs. It's all about customer service, a decent environment, easy access and the need to be around other people. I dislike the thought of empty stores and abandon malls and hope others will continue to seek the satisfaction of in store fee free shopping.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

No, I wouldn't.

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon2 years ago

No way.

Nils Anders Lunde


A. Marina Fournier

To a certain extent, I *research* books, music, and movies on Amazon, for their content and so forth, but often buy from other businesses, brick&mortar, bricks&clicks (my bookseller), or online only. Many products I buy directly from the distributor or mfr., some items come from Etsy. Those items I have to feel or try on--those I buy where I find them. I seldom buy fabric online.

I buy from Amazon/Amazon Marketplace only if I can't find the item anyplace else.

Sarah W.
Sarah W.2 years ago

I used a retail store yesterday to try on shoes then buy online. Why? $100 in store vs $40 online -I wouldn't mind paying extra to buy something instore as I know retail is struggling BUT the sales assistants in this particular store are rude, disinterested in helping customers and far more interested in chatting about their plans for the weekend. Sorry -NO SALE

Maria Barbosa


Connie O.
Connie O.2 years ago

no...I don't need anything badly enough to pay to browse.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia2 years ago

I rather just go to a store since I'm not that lazy.