In general, savvy shoppers know that online retailers will beat the prices you find in brick-and-mortar stores. After all, online retailers don’t have the overhead that’s necessary for maintaining a storefront. Add in the fact that comparison shopping online takes nothing more than the click of a button, and it’s clear that online retailers need to offer the lowest prices possible to remain competitive.
However, there are some instances when it’s actually cheaper to run to the mall than it is to visit Amazon.
Here are three situations in which you can expect to spend less if you shop at a traditional store:
1. You’re buying ubiquitous and inexpensive goods.
In 2012, Brad Tuttle of Time reported that shopping for back-to-school basics, like erasers, construction paper, and markers, was actually cheaper if you were to purchase the items at a store rather than online.
There are two reasons for this. First, brick-and-mortars can use these types of common items as loss leaders to get more traffic into the store, whereas online retailers can’t do the same. So a careful shopper can spend a great deal less money (but a lot more time) to find the deals on these types of general items.
Second, shoppers who choose to buy their school supplies online are by and large hoping to get their shopping done quickly — and are willing to pay a little more for the convenience. Price sensitivity isn’t a reason to do your school supply shopping online.
2. You’re offered coupons.
While some online retailers offer various coupon codes and savings opportunities, many of these coupons will require a minimum purchase for redemption.
Several brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, have made a practice of offering coupons that are good for almost any purchase. For example, Bed Bath and Beyond regularly mails out 20% off coupons that are good on almost any of their merchandise and for any purchase, no matter how small.
Even if the products you’re searching for are a little cheaper online, the brick-and-mortar store will come out ahead when you factor in shipping costs and in-store coupons.
3. The store offers a price-match guarantee.
In order to remain competitive with online retailers, many stores are now promising to match any online price. As long as you have to pay for shipping for your online purchase, then taking advantage of a brick-and-mortar’s price-match guarantee will be cheaper.
The Bottom Line
In most cases, it makes more financial sense to do your shopping from your laptop, rather than in a store. But if price is your main concern, recognize that the internet doesn’t have the market cornered. Brick-and-mortar stores can still be competitive, despite the cheaper reputation of online retailers.
What items do you still prefer to buy at brick-and-mortar stores?