What Timberland Taught Me About Retail

timberland earthkeepers UPDATE: I changed this post around 100% after a conversation with Pat Phelan. He was upset at my handling of the post, and I think I can see his point. More about that in a subsequent post.

I am completely frustrated with the state of face-to-face retail. Upon watching a commercial for the Timberland Earthkeepers brand boot, I was hooked. I wanted a pair. As I need new boots for winter, I thought this was a serendipitous opportunity. So, I marched into the nearest Timberland store (about a half hour from home), and asked to try out the new Earthkeepers.

Only, they didn’t have any. I asked the store clerk if they were sold out. No, he replied. They just didn’t have them yet. I asked him if there were other stores that stocked the boots. He gave me a few names to try out. I called two stores, Macys and Journeys. One you’ve probably heard of, and the other, not.

Macy’s took about 10 minutes to answer my call, hold time included, only to say that they’d never heard of the model of boot. Journeys answered much faster that they’d not heard of it.

Zappos.com had a few models in stock, but not very many, and not in the color I’d have preferred. (But at least they had some.) If one is going to buy shoes online, to me, there’s only one choice: Zappos, and that’s because their customer service is top shelf. Buying shoes is tricky: fit, comfort, and all kinds of other factors are hard to determine over the web.

And yet, no face-to-face store had the boot in stock, nor did they seem all that interested in helping me get a pair. In fact, they didn’t seem to want my money at all.

I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that Timberland is advertising something their stores and their affiliate stores don’t carry. I’m frustrated that the only purchase points seem to be online. And I’m not frustrated for me, a reasonably savvy tech consumer. I’m frustrated that I learned about these shoes via a TV commercial (saw it at my parents’ house during Thanksgiving), and that I couldn’t actually get the shoes in a store. Further, I’m frustrated that no parts of the distribution chain seemed to know much about the shoe in question.

I guess, in thinking this all over a bit more, I’ve come to realize that there’s really very little reason to walk into a brick and mortar retail store for most products these days. I can research better on the web. I can get better opinions on the web. I can find better deals via the web. And I can actually order something that was advertised, when using a web channel.

What does that tell YOU about retail?

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