June 16, 2016

Do You Shop Online or Prefer a Store?

credit: Huffington Post

I read some interesting, though not all that surprising, statistics recently in the Wall Street Journal about our changing shopping habits. In an annual study conducted by UPS, 51% of purchases are made online and 44% of smartphone users use their phones to make purchases. Only one in five say that they continue to make the majority of their purchases in a brick and mortar environment.

As a former market researcher, I must point out the obvious bias inherent in the survey results: all 5,000 of those participating in this survey have made online purchases recently. They are predisposed to be fans of the online shopping experience. So, it is not possible to project these results to the population as a whole.

Even so, other, more independent, studies have shown a strong shift to buying products online. More than half the U.S. population will make at least one purchase on the Internet this year. Quarterly sales results from traditional department stores or narrowly focused retail establishments, like office supply stores, show continued erosion in their ability to fend off competitors like Amazon. 

Importantly, to readers of Satisfying Retirement Journey, the move to online shopping by older adults continues to increase at a rate even higher than those in their 20's and 30's. While fear of credit card fraud or identity theft remain a hindrance to some, comfort in the safety of online shopping, along with the convenience of free, quick shipping, and simplified return policies, has made our age group a vital segment of that shopping experience. Besides, merchants like Target and Home Depot can lose millions of customers' private data to hackers just as easily (apparently) as online shopping stores.

As I write this post, I have just returned from a physical store shopping trip for some new home furnishings and supplies for an upcoming birthday party for my granddaughter. On the two days prior to this, I ordered several things for our dog and future travel supplies online. It was convenient and simple. Besides, with an outside temperature of 110, staying inside was a no-brainer. 

When I shop in a series of brick and mortar stores I tend to spend more because I see something that catches my eye for our house or a family member. When shopping at Amazon or some other online merchant, I am looking for something specific and stop when I have found it. So, the dollar amounts I spend when I physically drive to retail establishments is higher. But, I shop much more frequently online, so the overall expenses for the year are probably quite comparable. 

Regardless, Internet shopping will continue to grab a larger share of our purchasing dollars. I see no logical path back to the days when shopping malls or large department stores controlled the lion's share of purchasing dollars. With Amazon now selling virtually every product imaginable and promising same-day delivery in major metropolitan areas of the country, the trend is undeniable: we are choosing convenience over our physical presence in a retail establishment. 

What about you? 

How have your shopping habits changed over the last few years? Do you prefer to shop in stores for most of what you buy or are you finding the convenience of the Internet too compelling? Like me, do you notice a difference in the amount you spend when shopping in a "real" store versus online? Do you worry about credit card or identity theft when paying for something over the Internet?

I am quite interested in your feedback.




48 comments:

  1. I do the majority of my retail shopping on line. I love the convenience. The one exception that will get me out of the house is for clothing, mainly because of the discrepancy in sizing. But once I find a style/brand I like in a brick and mortar store, I'll end up ordering on line. For example, I know exactly what size to order with LLBean.

    I love Amazon! It seems they have almost anything! The convenience along with good prices and plenty of product reviews makes it a great place to shop.

    Last weekend we were out shopping for 2 table lamps. Knew what we wanted (mission style), but couldn't find them in any retail stores. Checked out Home Depot online and bingo! There they were. Reasonably priced with free shipping.

    As far as security, I learned a few years ago that someone was using my SS# to try to set up an account with the IRS (I'm guessing to try to file for a fraudulent tax return). The person was unsuccessful because the IRS had sent me a letter to confirm that I wanted to set up this account. Likely the breech occurred during the time I was employed at the VA, or possibly from a doctor's office (who requires you to give your SS#). Since that happened, I have had monitoring by Kroll. They send a monthly report; they also notify you immediately if someone has tried to use your SS# or if their is a credit inquiry. It's not completely foolproof, but it's enough for me to feel confident in purchasing online.

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    1. I buy clothes very infrequently. I replace jeans every 2 years and buy new shirts every 5-7 years! So, I too like to go to a store, look at the full range of my choices in proper light, and try each on for fit.

      But, like you, I am a committed Amazon lover. I was one of the first Prime members and think I am personally responsible for them losing money on the original $79 price.

      The last few years have pretty much proven that there is no security against hackers and data thieves. Banks, large retail companies, the government....I figure if someone is going to break into a computer system it will be one of the big boys. Buying from smaller online retailers is probably safer than going down the street to Target or Wells Fargo.

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  2. Most stores are 50 miles from my house and often don't have what I'm looking for. So yea I shop online.

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    1. You are the perfect example of why Internet shopping is so popular. And, I bet they still deliver for free.

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  3. While my spouse and I are very comfortable doing online shopping, primarily paper and ebooks, electronic equipment, and hard-to-find items that are easier to locate via 'search' than by foot (A new magnetic stainless steel panel for my dishwasher comes to mind), we find ourselves remaining loyal to quite a few brick and mortars. When I think about the reasons why, it seems to come down to each one having successfully created an environment that makes you want to be there - REI, Total Wine, our local running store, and even Trader Joes, Sprouts Starbucks, and Whole Foods come to mind. I look forward to going in, seeing the employees we've come to know, and benefiting from their product knowledge and excellent customer service.

    I don't see moving to buy clothes or shoes online anytime soon either, although similar to Carole, once I find a style I like, I'll buy more online (a particular brand of H&M jeans comes to mind, of which I might possibly own, say a dozen? :-)

    I think if shopping malls and the like are going to survive, they will need to reinvent themselves as destinations, not just places we go to shop. Adding things like movie theaters, interesting eateries and entertainment venues is already occurring in our area, and are all positive moves that will draw people in in my opinion at.

    And no, I am not uncomfortable at all shopping online. I much prefer it to physically handing my credit card to a waiter at a restaurant or other, to whisk away to who knows where.

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    1. So, I guess my idea to get you a pair of H&M jeans for Christmas is kind of silly! Seriously, you are so right. A few retailers in our area that were my go to stores have closed over the last several years. It took quite a bit of time and effort to find replacements. We do become attached.

      Most of the shopping malls in our area that are booming are destinations. Besides a tremendous variety of shopping and dining choices, there are pretty fountains and walkways, plenty of benches for sitting, movie theaters, and free weekend concerts.

      One thing I will not order online is food. Whether it is delivery from the local Chinese place or steaks from Omaha, I prefer to eat in a restaurant or pick up the food myself. I look at the typical food delivery van or car and shudder.

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  4. We live in a rural area, so shopping on line is great for many items. My daughter helped open my eyes to online purchasing of paper products, cleaning supplies, and gifts. One think I recently learned, as a chemo patient, you can hardly find a mortar and brick wig shop anymore. Don't laugh, but I've ordered a total of 5 wigs online. Most of them have been returned, and I'm still holding out for the "right" one. It's hard to beat online shopping for buying and sending gifts.

    That being said, like Carole and Tamara, I prefer shopping in my favorite retail stores for clothing. Next month, my daughter is getting married. I've lost track of how many outfits I ordered online. Nothing worked. But,thirty minutes shopping at a mall (Macy's), and I was good to go. Hub has a favorite local men's clothing store we always shop for him, too. They focus on customer service and still provide free alterations. Like the gals above already stated, we are partial to ordering casual clothes. We really love LLBean and Land's End. Hard beat their t-shirts, swim wear, etc, but I wait for the sales to order.

    This post made me think about where I shop and why. I will always love a good bargain, but quality matters, too.

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    1. So far, if I have money to invest in retail establishments, I looks like it should be in clothing (as long as it isn't too trendy!).

      I ordered a new external backup hard drive for Betty's computer on Saturday morning. Amazon had it shipping in from Las Vegas and at my front door 8 hours later...with no shipping. How do they do that?

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  5. I find a lot of stores in malls focus on younger buyers so there is not much I want to buy. I tried to buy a new purse for traveling and there were few choices so I spent a lot of time on Amazon. It took three tries with returning three items before I found one I liked. Amazon is great for finding that odd item you need and I do buy things on line regularly.

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    1. As we get older it becomes rather obvious that the majority of stores don't view us as an important marketing segment. As a guy, I also find it amusing that for every one store catering to men there are at least six for women.

      We have ordered a full bedroom set of furniture for the guest room online, but had it delivered to the store so we could see it and accept or reject it before it was delivered.

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  6. We shop for everything but groceries on line. Nostrums has an amazing return policy when it comes to formal affairs. I ordered five "mother of the bride" dresses and sent back four with no issue.
    The only problem with on line shopping is that it is more addicting for my husband then in store shopping ever was.

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    1. Online shopping is too easy at times. I used to spend hundreds of dollars on books all the time from Amazon. Now, when I read of something that might interest me, I check the library first. 90% of the time they have a copy. I may have to wait a few weeks, but that is a good trade: free instead of $15-$20.

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  7. I'm thinking of the old catalog sales, i.e. Eatons, Sears; how we anticipated the arrival of the special edition Christmas wish book full of toys. I live in a rural area and liked the convenience of catalog shopping. I still do the in-store shopping more than on-line shopping. The convenience of on-line shopping can't be beat though. I have a sister who is a professional when it comes to shopping. I'm always amazed how much I can spend on stuff I didn't need when I accompany her!

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    1. Spur-of-the-moment purchase...the devil in all of us! I do tend to spend more when in a store environment, but don't go frequently enough to do any real damage.

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  8. Sounds like many of us are utilizing online shopping for the same things. Living in a smaller town, our selection is more limited as far as physical stores, with basically Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Office Max, and a few other chains. Even our library is smaller than what I was previously used to, so while they have books I like, I still need to go to Amazon for many of my choices. What do we shop in town/physical stores for? Groceries, larger house items (think appliances and the like), and the occasional clothing item (like you, Bob, I wear clothes for years since mens casual never goes much out of style, and I fortunately haven't changed sizes in decades). I will not order prepared food online; we don't even use the pizza chains since many frozen pizzas have gotten so much better. Note: if you like spicy, DiGiorno has new Hispanic-themed pizzas that have some heat to them.

    Deb and I have had no trouble purchasing online, and have been doing so for many years. I'll even order from the chains online if their pricing is better than Amazon, which oftentimes it is. Personally, I am thankful for the online option, particularly for those of us in smaller communities, who might be forced to drive to cities like Knoxville and others if the only option was physical stores.

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    1. Convenience and mostly free shipping make it hard for brick and mortars to compete in some product categories. I do like the convenience of ordering something online from a place like Lowe's or Home Depot and picking it up at the store. I can check it out before taking it home and returns are easy.

      Physical stores have had to adopt some of the online techniques, like easier returns and free shipping, making things easier for the customer.

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  9. I saw the other two "mother of the bride" online situations and I also ordered my first try for my outfit on line and it didn't work out...I hated going to Macy's, David's Bridal, etc. and seeing options for 90 year old great grandmothers or 40 something hoochy mamas with great bodies...my 66 year old body required more modesty and I eventually found something in a brick and motar store and by the time I found it I literally ran to the dressing room crossing my fingers that it fit. I didn't realize until this situation came into my life that I really detested shopping at this stage of my life...when we would go on vacation 20 years ago and there was an outlet mall, I made sure we had time to visit it. Now, I wouldn't go near it unless it was a rainy day and no other options were open and then it would be to get exercise, not really shop to buy. In clearing out my mother's home these past few months and she wasn't a shopper, it brought home very loud and clear that I need to start getting rid of things now and not bring in more things to deal with. I am still working, but I am looking at my wardrobe items now with an eye for comfortable retirement items. I broke my foot about 10 years ago and need to try on shoes before I purchase them, so that takes care of not purchasing them on line. When my daughter got married it was helpful to have her Bed, Bath and Beyond registry on line since folks were coming from all over the east coast. I can see benefits for on line shopping, but I'm glad I'm not addicted or even excited about shopping any more in brick and mortor or on line.

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    1. Because of her very petite size, my wife has similar problems finding clothes that fit her and look appropriate. Sometimes, she is forced to shop in the teen girls' department to find the right size, but finding a pair of jeans that aren't ripped for hang 2 inches below her waist is a challenge.

      I dislike shopping. I am one of those guys who goes into a store with a particular need in mind, find it, buy it, and am out the door in 10 minutes. The idea of shopping for fun or as a leisure activity makes no sense to me.

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  10. Couple living in a rural area with physical limitations that make shopping difficult, and I'm definitely an online shopper. As a writer, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, but it still gets lots of my business. I've even begun shopping for shoes at Zappos. I'm vegan for both health and ethical reasons, and I can actually find "vegan" shoes on Zappos! Who knew? I like the ability to read lots of reviews online, too.

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    1. Your situation is one of the reasons online shopping is doing so well. Limited choices and limited opportunities spells opportunity for online merchants.

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  11. I never really liked shopping in a store. Love online shopping except for shoes which I must try on for correct fit. But I'm not a big consumer-just buy what I need.

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    1. We are in the same shopping cart, Donna: buy what we need, not just because we are bored or find it fun. I can think of a lot of activities that are more fun than wandering around a mall.

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  12. After our move to Cape May and realizing how far the closest Target was, not to mention any home decor store, I turned to Overstock and Wayside.com primarily. I think we're now on their Christmas card list! I love the convenience of Prime!
    b

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    1. I discovered Wayside not long ago...nice stuff.

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  13. I am an online shopper. It is more convenient. I avoid long checkout lines. I don't buy items I don't need. And since I live in an area that has 9 months of winter, it is a lot better for my arthritic knees to shop online. Amazon has become my favorite goto shopping place.

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    1. 9 months of winter...did I just see you in Alaska? Online shopping is perfect for you. It is amazing what Amazon has managed to do in a little over 20 years.

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    2. Nope, Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some winters we even beat out Alaska.

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  14. I often shop online, usually for items that I used to order by telephone from a catalog in the pre-internet shopping era. (I also do most of my banking online.) I don't worry much about id theft when I'm shopping online, although I do try to take some reasonable precautions (like typing in my credit card number each time I go to a site rather than having it stored in their system).
    There are a few things I much prefer to buy in person. Food falls in this category; I don't want to order my produce online and have someone else pick it out. I also prefer to shop in person for garden plants, in part because I love spending time at plant nurseries. -Jean

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    1. I use a particular credit card for online ordering or recurring charges. If it is compromised I can shut that card down and not affect the other ones I maintain.

      Within the last 6 months I did have someone try to post a bogus charge on that card so they had gotten into someone's system. The credit card company quickly alerted me, shut down that number and overnighted me a new card.

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  15. I try to be loyal to small local merchants,when I can. The quilt store, the independent garage, and so on. Except for that, I shop mainly online. My big tip is that I only shop online in stores that have in person returns for clothes. I also order online for store pickup. In my heart I know that amazon is the evil empire. But where else can I get fabric, plastic wonder clips, makeup,a beagle planter, art supplies and essential oils all in the same order and with free shipping.

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    1. Amazon has captured the convenience market. I have had to return a few things and it has been simple. In fact, in one case they posted credit to my account even before they received the package back. Just a notice from UPS of pickup was good enough for them.

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  16. I know some people enjoy shopping but I have never been one of them. I've never enjoyed the whole mall experience. Traffic, parking, looking for the store, looking for the department, then looking for the item which they may or may not have in the right size/color/style. So online shopping is wonderful for me. Especially, now that I am 68 with a neuromuscular condition.

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    1. Like you, Florence, I endure shopping in a mall or large store. I enjoy going into a Lowe's or Home Depot, but I am looking for something specific. Shopping just to shop strikes me as a terrible waste of time and money.

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  17. Amazon Prime has changed our lives. Well, that and Zappos. The frustration of spending an afternoon looking for something store to store has turned me into an online shopper. Exceptions are several local merchants with specific offerings (unique decor items, floral and gift departments, etc.) that I do visit, but like you, I end up spending more than I expected to (their marketing and displays are so seductive), so I limit my visits.

    There are several stores that I love and don't have nearby...Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, LL Bean. I normally default to online shopping with Nordstrom, because of their free shipping and returns at the nearby Rack. Crate & Barrel has a REALLY slow refund system, so I don't normally order online from them unless I'm replacing a broken dish or it's something I know I'll like (their kitchen linens and dishes are wonderful, as are their holiday candies and decor).

    And like others, I often need to try on clothing because the offshoring of our apparel has created REALLY inconsistent sizing and quality. Our local stores always have minimal offerings, though, so I often try here and buy online to the size and/or color I want.

    Overall, online has taken over the majority of our shopping except for groceries and supplies. The UPS man is our friend. :-)
    --Hope

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    1. Zappos has been mentioned a few times. I know they sell shoes but have never looked at their web site. Is is good? What is the primary draw?

      Successful merchants have learned that consumers expect fast, free delivery, and simple hassle-free return policies. Those that haven't gotten the message yet are struggling.

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    2. Zappos...overnight shipping, wide selection, free shipping both ways, and awesome customer service. We have purchased only shoes, boots and sox from them, but they have branched into clothes now. They were purchased by Amazon a while ago, and I worried they would change, but they're consistently wonderful.

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  18. Hi Bob - Zappos was my FIRST on line shopping experience, and it is wonderful, although slightly higher priced than brick and mortar. The advantage is that they have practically every possible brand, a nice wishlist feature for comparison, and paid shipping "both ways." So if you don't like them when you get them, back those shoes go and you try the next ones on your list. Especially wonderful for ladies, because you can sort by style, heel height, etc. There. My ad for Zappos is done.

    I have just recently joined Amazon Prime. (actually, I foolishly forgot to cancel the "trial period" - but then decided that wasn't such a bad deal.) I have friends who have paper towel and tp, shipped to their doors! I think you need to be fairly careful about price comparisons, but I think you are probably exactly right about impulse buying. I'd rather take a beating than go to Wal-mart - so hopefully, this might be the answer!

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    1. I don't buy shoes very often but I will certainly take a look at Zappos.

      You will be pleased with Prime. In addition to the shipping, don't forget the video streaming service. Though not up to Netflix standards, it is quite good for TV shows, movies, and original material.

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  19. I'm definitely an on-line shopper. I think it is a continuation of what started as a catalogue shopping habit when my children were small. It was so much easier. I do still store shop but often that is for pleasure, to walk and look.

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    1. I remember when we received dozens and dozens of catalogs in the mail every year. Now we get maybe six or seven and use them for ideas, or to prompt us to go to that merchant's online site.

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  20. I was going to say I do most of my shopping locally, but I've already gotten four deliveries from Amazon prime this week. I live within a few miles of some of my favorite stores so I really enjoy shopping for groceries and clothing on weekdays when the checkout lines are short and the parking spaces are plentiful. But we definitely do all of our Christmas shopping online as well as purchasing a lot of crafting and hobby supplies. I assume as we grow older we will do even more online. It certainly is a wonderful convenience!

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    1. There are some weeks when I get multiple deliveries from Amazon in a week's time. It is quick, well-priced, and convenient. Also, I don't have any qualms about banking online. To me, it is safer than the U.S. mail.

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  21. Nice to meet you here, fellow retiree. I signed up to follow your blog on bloglovin.com a minute ago. I enjoy both online and in store shopping. In particular I shop downtown at local stores which helps our local economy.

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    1. Hello, Terra! I have not heard of bloglovin.com until your mention, but took a look.

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  22. We buy most of our pool supplies online through Amazon. There are a few things that we can't purchase online such as pool salt and muriatic acid so we get it at a brick and mortar Home Depot. We saved so much money by renting most and purchasing some of my college kids books through Amazon. For Christmas we purchased our son a Kindle and our daughter a pair of Chaco's through Amazon for less than we could find locally. Most clothing for our young adults is bought at brick and mortar though like Old Navy, Kohl's, Ross and even Costco.

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    1. Yours is the first mention of Costco. I expected more folks to mention it or Sam's Club as places to shop.

      I would add to your comment that I'm glad Amazon doesn't sell pool acid online. That is something I wouldn't want shipped around the country.

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  23. First, we have streamlined our purchases/shopping in retirement because we need less and are on a budget. We shop online primarily for items we can't buy in local stores -- custom sized tablecloths, replacement parts, cosmetics that are in limited distribution and occasionally buy books on Amazon that we want to own, but we mostly check out books from the library.

    Clothing is always purchased from brick and mortar because we both prefer to try on rather than chance a misfitting item that needs to be returned. I do occasionally buy more when I'm shopping in stores. Both because I may see something on a rack that interests me or interact with a persuasive salesperson.

    Bottom line: we shop online very selectively but primarily shop in conventional stores.

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    1. The convenience of online does have its place. A few days ago I realized I needed new blades for my electric shaver. I could either get in the car and see if a local drug store had the correct model number or order it from Amazon and have it delivered two days later. That was my choice and at a price probably less than the brick and mortar option.

      But, like you, for clothing I prefer to see, feel, and try on. I buy new clothes infrequently, so I expect them to last many years. Buying them in person is the best option.

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