Shopping Local vs. Shopping Online

We did a really unscientific poll on Facebook the other day, asking why people choose to shop online instead of locally. It’s tempting to just go online these days whether your just busy or for some other reasons. But it’s  important to support shops that are part of your community, because without local shops we will eventually be stuck in a world that’s nothing but big box stores and online warehousers, and I don’t think that’s what anyone wants.

Don Thomas Sporthaus
One of my local shops: Don Thomas Sporthaus in Birmingham, MI

Anyways here are the most common reasons people shop online and I’m also going to offer some alternatives.

Online Stores Have the Best Prices… This was the most common reason for shopping online. Warehousers do a great job of convincing you that they’re saving you a ton of money but that is usually not the case. Sure there are big savings to be had on past-season’s gear but with rare exception you’ll only save a few bucks in sales tax on in-season gear, since retail prices are mostly set by the OEM/contract.

I know it feels good to “save” money, there have been studies done that prove this. But you know what else feels good? Peeling a fresh deck out of the factory plastic for the first time or getting a new pair of boots (new boot smell > old boot smell). If you’re waiting for something to go on sale, chances are your shop is not going to have it anymore. What’s better, maybe saving $50 on a board or would you rather just get the board a few months earlier and be able to enjoy it longer?

If you are worried about price most shops will price match in-stock items. You just need to grow up and don’t be afraid to ask them. Trust me they would rather knock $30 off the price of that board or throw in a free DVD than lose your business altogether.

Online Stores Have a Better Selection… This is also a common reason; especially for women and for guys that are odd sizes – very tall or very short or very large boots, etc. Or sometimes you just have your heart set on a specific item that your local shop doesn’t have or can’t get because everything is pre-ordered these days.

Obviously there are the online warehousers and they usually have whatever you need, but the internet is also full of small shops from around the country some of which might have your item in-stock, like Jack’s Board House in Oregon where I finally found my Blacklist late last season when everyone else was sold out. These shops are simply someone else’s local shop.

Sure, they’re a little harder (honestly it is going to take you like 2 minutes on Google to find these) to find rather than just taking the easy route and ordering from some warehouse site but this way you can support someone else’s core shop even if you can’t support your own.

I don’t have a local shop (or, I have one but it sucks balls)… If you live near the mountains it’s easy to forget how rough it is elsewhere. I grew up with two options which I think are probably all too common:

  1. A ski shop that grudgingly sold snowboards out of the basement right next to their tuning area.
  2. A skateboard shop that puts snow stuff on display for 3 months a year.

The kids that end up working at these gigs don’t know the product very well, and don’t relate to customers very well. I can throw a rock in any direction and pretty much hit a ski hill, so I can only imagine what it’s like in Nashville or St. Louis or Charlotte. If you’re forced online because of this you can use some of the tips above to support local/independent shops even if you don’t have one of your own.

The bottom line is that even if your shop doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for or even if you don’t have a shop at all, there are still ways for you to be a more responsible consumer and support the roots establishments that have allowed sports like snowboarding to grow and thrive over the last 30+ years. It takes a little more effort sometimes and might cost a few bucks more, but then again you are probably paying extra and buying organic groceries and boycotting certain brands out of a similar sentiment, why not apply the same sort of logic when you’re shopping for new gear?


7 thoughts on “Shopping Local vs. Shopping Online

  1. I’m in the situation where all the local shops around me suck balls. Often forcing me to go online to get gear. When I do, I try to do exactly what you say; find a small shop that has an online presence and buy from them.

    I don’t even mind the extra price usually. If I’m shelling out the money for gear, an extra 30-50 bucks isn’t gonna bother me all that much especially since I know its supporting a small business.

    Great article.

  2. I think that an important point that was missed in the article is the major impact every single sale has on a local shop.
    A common rationale for going online or to a ski shop down the street is, “It’s just one purchase.”
    Imagine how you’d feel if you put effort in at work and someone were to give those hours of your pay check over to a person working at a competing company down the road. That sucks. You can’t tell me that the $100 you would have made, doesn’t make an impact on the quality of your life.
    by supporting local business you let me and my family eat, go to school, drive a car, etc.
    Don’t be fooled into believing your purchases make no impact, that’s what the big box stores of the world want you to believe. This isn’t toothpaste. We are talking about highly specialized purchases. There are not that many shops in the country at all. I am just guessing, but the amount of actual snowboard shops that do not sell skis is under 100 in the entire US.
    This is a very small pot.
    You’re purchases matter very much to me. It’s not about getting a raise, it’s about being able to stay around and improve the local snowboard community.

    1. Great point! I can’t tell you how many times people have said something to me like, “Oh I’m going to go to the shop downtown and try on a bunch of boots and then probably order them from Dogfunk”. I always make it a point to tell them taht’s about the douchiest thing you can do. You’re literally lying to the guys who are trying to fit your boots in order to steal their knowledge & service, only to take your business somewhere else. It honestly infuriates me when I hear these things.

  3. I think the important thing to remember, is to shop around the shops in your town. Don’t worry about if it’s a box store or a core shop. Worry about if the shop guy knows their shit. I work for a box retailer that prides itself on dedication to customer service in the ski industry. However, I have been to some of our other stores in Ohio and Indiana and their guys could give two shits less about winter sports, or the ski guy is a manager who HAD to sit through training. I wouldn’t buy from them, but I would buy from our other stores, especially in west and northern mi. On the same note, I have been into core shops, and the guy behind the counter couldn’t be bothered to take his eyes off the shred video on tv that has been on loop for the past 3 years, to help me try on a boot. (This shop also told me they couldn’t get Jeremy Jones’ Further in stock (when it was released) because they had to order them in quantity of 5 and I would be the only person to by the hard copy. In walks my attractive blonde friend and suddenly it’s available and will be here next week for you.)

    Not all box stores are bad, not all core shops are the cat’s meow. Buy local from someone who knows their shit and is willing to help your stoke.

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