Friday, 25 May 2012

Buying online: not always the cheaper option

While it would be a fair generalisation to say that buying things online is generally cheaper (especially for inefficient and archaic retail models as the ones that exist in Australia) this is not always the case. I know in my (and many other people's) mind that their retail buying preferences go as follows:
  1. Online (cheapest)
  2. Large / well known department store (most likely to honour refunds policy)
  3. Local business
Recently however I have come across several situations where local businesses have given me:
  • The best price - I price shopped everywhere for similar products and couldn't get it cheaper
  • The best advice - A small store owner (especially a specialty store owner) is likely to know much more about their product than a sales assistant at a large store; and 
  • The feel good feeling - You get this amazing feeling by supporting local business but this is definitely third in line when I come to decide where to buy from
I think there is a common misconception that local businesses just cannot compete on price. They have the overheads that online businesses do not but do not have the same buying power as the large chains and department stores. The two following examples showed me how wrong I could be

Note that these two businesses were just so amazing that I wanted to give them some free advertising. You always hear when people have bad experiences but not when they have good ones so I hope they get some business out of this post.

Glasses - Noble Optical

I was in urgent need for a new pair of glasses after I could no longer wear contacts for medical reasons so I went online searching for a pair. I had in mind quite a definite pair that I was interested in (a pair of thick framed Ray Bans).

  • In a big chain store with all their buying power the price was coming to ~$400 - $500
  • Online I couldn't believe the prices I was getting from the US - $180 for the frames and only another $150 for the lenses ($330 total including shipping)
I decided to visit Noble Optical (my local optician) which has been run by the same guy Adrian for as long as anyone in the area can remember. It turns out he had what I was looking for in stock for a sticker price of $200 - $250 for the frames so I thought he would never be competitive. He cut the frame price to $100 for me and charged only $80 for the lenses. He then went one better but taking an extra $20 off so that it was fully covered by my health insurance. I paid half of what I would have paid online.

I couldn't believe how amazing the deal was that he was giving to me and it continued to get better. When I explained to him that I needed them urgently (something you cant do with an online store / large chain store) he told me that he would have them done for me in 20 minutes. I was so amazed at his service that I am willing to recommend him to anyone and everyone. It is definitely worth giving him a call (he doesn't have a website but his contact details are here)


I do competitive rifle shooting and so go through a fair bit of ammunition which is one of the main costs involved in the sport. Given the restriction on guns and the strict gun laws in Australia the major gun shops charged an arm and a leg for most decent ammunition. The cheapest way that I had originally found was to buy them through your local club which tended to provide them for a much cheaper price.

I thought it may be worth trying to buy the ammunition online from the US but after seeing the amount of effort to get the stuff legally into the country it just was not worth the effort.

I found this online store - Ammunition Galore - which provided cheaper prices for ammunition than almost any other supplier around. You may say that this proves that online is cheaper but it is not your typical online store. It is actually just a local guy that imports the stuff and sells it out of his house. If you live in Melbourne and shoot it is well worth the drive. Also if he doesn't have the ammunition he is more than willing to order it in. He also has tested everything he sells so knows what he is talking about and he is cheaper than anywhere else.

No comments:

Post a Comment