Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Buying locally vs. buying online

I visited several local bicycle shops in my area recently and I am becoming more and more frustrated. Once a while I would hear that I should support my local economy and buy everything locally. This includes bike parts and accessories. Well, even if I wanted to, it doesn't work and I end up buying everything online. Let's compare:

Buying locally:
+ I can have in-person conversation with the salesman and often get an advice.
+ I can take stuff I buy home imediatelly.
+ I can get a better feeling of color, form, function of things I buy and in case of clothing, I can try them on.
+ Returns are as easy as a walk to the store.
+/- Price is sometimes a bit higher, but I don't pay shipping charges.
- Often local stores don't carry things I am looking for.
Your local bike store knows best what you need. (Source:

Buying online:
+ Wide selection. I can always find what I need.
+ Usually best price is guaranteed.
+/- I have to pay shipping charges but I can avoid paying a higher tax rate.
- I can't see or feel what I am buying. I can't try things on. I have to rely on what I read about the product online.
- No or very limited help and advice available.
- I have to wait for my order to arrive.
- Returning things may be problematic. Instead of just stopping at my local store I have to repack everything and send it by mail. Often, I have to call first and get a return number, etc.

Four pluses, one minus for buying locally and 2 pluses, 4 minuses for buying online. If buying locally is so good why am I not doing it more often? The answer is that single minus on my "buying locally" list. This is the main problem with local stores. Most of them carry a certain line of products and simply do not offer anything beyond that. Do you want a new bike? Visit a local store and choose from a wide selection from Trek and Specialized. Anything else? Oh yes, we have that one Cervelo as well (Well, it is not usually that bad but you get my point). Want some bike clothes? We have Pearl Izumi and Bontrager. That's all. Want new tires? We have Bontrager and Specialized. And 3 types of Continentals.

I hope you see my point. The main problem with local stores is that they do not have the space to carry all sorts of different products. Which means that if you are looking for some mainstream product from Specialized, Trek or Bontrager, you are well covered. But if you want a Salsa bike on Clement tires and a ShowersPass jacket - tough luck. Better try online.

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