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Online vs."Brick and Mortar"

Comparing Online to "Brick and Mortar" Shopping

Does one have any advantages over the other, and, if so, where might those advantages lie?

A Comparison Chart

A Comparison Chart



Brick and Mortar


Traditionally, an online store has very low overhead.  Since there is no need to pay for retail display space, storage costs are negligible or non-existent.  Shipping of product is often factory direct, further reducing warehousing costs and eliminating the expense of multiple shipments to various distributors.  All of this  creates significant savings that can be passed on to the consumer, and which allow even family run businesses to successfully compete with their much larger, brick and mortar competitors.

A brick and mortar store has unavoidable expenses with which it must contend.  A physical location has to be lighted, heated or cooled meaning electrical and gas expenses.  Then there are things such as wages, maintenance, and warehousing costs.Shoplifters means “shrinkage"; and that too costs the retailer.  As well, stock must be brought to the storekeeper before it can be transferred to the consumer.  These are expenses not normally encountered by the online stores.  On the other hand, there is the possibility for the brick and mortar retailer to buy in bulk.  That saves, and generally, the larger the retailer, the larger the bulk purchases and the larger the bulk purchases, the larger the savings – which can be shared with the final purchaser.


Online stores tend to specialize, and that specialization normally results in great selection in that particular area.  Online stores are also more likely to carry hard to find items that do not have a large market share.  These retailers are dealing with national and international markets so they are better able to meet even a minimal demand for such merchandise, and, with their low overhead advantage, even slow moving items create no real problems.

Brick and mortar locations are much more dependent on local demand.  If demand is weak locally, the item you want may not be carried at all.  Other items are carried only seasonally, eliminating year round access to them.  Many retailers, for cost considerations, are also forced to concentrate on best sellers to the detriment of slower movers that are just not “brought in.”  Of course, there are some items to be found that may not be available at any online store because they are not sold online.  On the other hand, how often have you seen the phrase, “Not found in stores”?

The Online Store


What could be handier than shopping from the comfort of your own home?  You don’t have to contend with crowds, dressing up to go out, or wasting gas to go hunting something that may or may not be there at all.  Online stores tend to provide comprehensive descriptions of potential purchases that go well beyond what is printed on the items’ boxes or that a less than knowledgeable store employee may be able to provide.  The chances are you will not even have to pay sales taxes when finalizing your purchase. 

Do you want to see it?  Do you want to touch and handle it? Do you want to feel the heft and better gauge the size?  None of that may can be done online.  If you’re lucky, you may even encounter a real live salesperson who actually knows what he or she is talking about, and can answer your questions in person.



Somebody somewhere is going to have to pay for the delivery.  Where Online Stores advertise “free delivery” that is only because the delivery costs are built into the advertised price of the product.  On the other hand, if your purchase is produced in Milwaukee and being shipped from Milwaukee, you will only have to pay the costs of the shipment from Milwaukee to your home, and not all sorts of intermediate shipments such as from manufacturer to wholesaler, to secondary wholesaler, to distributor, to secondary distributor, and finally to the retailer.

You want it.  You’ve got it – as long as it is in stock.  If you’re picking it up yourself, you don’t have to pay any sort of delivery, at least nothing beyond the price of the product and its related taxes.  Brick and Mortar retailers never assess extra delivery charges when it comes to the costs of getting the product into their stores and onto their shelves.  That cost is invariably built into the price shown on the sales ticket.


Online Stores provide manufacturers’ warranties

Brick and Mortar stores provide manufacturers’ warranties.  Upon occasion they will do the servicing themselves, but in most cases and for most products, that is left to the manufacturer


Almost all Online stores allow returns.  Be aware, however, that you are dealing with a distant entity, and that will mean some inconvenience.  The returned item must be repackaged and shipped. That means there will be shipping costs and probably restocking fees to be considered.  These costs are normally not there in the case of returns of defective items, but they normally are there in the case of returns due to change of mind.

Almost all Brick and Mortar stores allow for returns.  Policies vary from store to store, however, so be sure to acquaint yourself with the rules and regulations prior to purchase.  Restocking fees are often encountered, but because you are likely handling the return on a person to person basis, it is unlikely that any additional shipping or delivery costs will be involved.  Make sure, however, that yours is not an “all sales final” type of purchase.

Brick and Mortar Store

It is normally just as safe to buy from a reputable Online Retailer as it is to buy from a Brick and Mortar Store.

It is normally just as safe to buy from a reputable Brick and Mortar Store as it is to buy from an Online Retailer.



To Summarize: There definitely are pros and cons to both types of shopping, and Store-It Foods is definitely of the opinion that there is a place in this world for both types of stores.  As consumers, we simply need to determine what will best meet our needs.

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Niche Markets

Not all, but many online busineses are what might be termed "niche marketers."  Wikipedia provides the following explanation:

"Niche marketing is the process of finding and serving profitable market segments and designing custom-made products or services for them. For big companies those market segments are often too small in order to serve them profitably as they often lack economies of scale."

This is why businesses such as Store-It Foods have found a role to play in the online marketplace.

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