Would you buy a bath you hadn’t sat in?

The predicted demise of the traditional high street has again hit the headlines, with the finger firmly pointing at the increase in internet shopping. The recent loss of HMV, Comet and Jessops having been blamed on either their late arrival to, or their inability to compete in the online shopping experience.

Many ‘online’ advocates have rushed to defend the process, praising the ease at which goods can be found, assimilated, compared and purchased.

But by relying on today’s online mail order catalogues are we in danger of having to depend on the small nuggets of product sales descriptions, or a bullet list of key features to make our choice?

The recent TV advert from VictoriaPlumb.com maybe gives a us clue. In it, a bathing actress describes the process involved in acquiring her luxury bathroom. She states “I shopped around for inspiration, I compared all the prices, and then I bought everything from Victoria Plumb.”

Now, I’m not sure how these comparisons were made. Maybe the lady trawled through countless web pages in her quest. But for me, a luxury bathroom is a significant purchase, and one that would require a tactile inspection of the quality, construction and style of its components and accessories.

Where would these items be available I wonder? Maybe I could find a bathroom supplier who has been near-sighted enough to pay for premises, with perhaps a well appointed showroom, and knowledgeable staff to answer any questions? Obviously, I couldn’t entertain the idea of actually buying anything from such a company, as their prices would be nowhere near competitive.

We’ve all been through the same process. Check out which vacuum cleaner/lawn mower etc you want in-store. Then see how much less that model is online. Maybe I’ve been asleep, but I hadn’t noticed it being stated quite so obviously before as an integral part of an ad campaign.

The realisation of this situation is nothing new. For years the marketing gurus have predicted this would come to be. But most had faith that before the total demise of the high street outlet, the retail sector would figure out a system that would benefit all. So far it seems, it hasn’t.

This isn’t pointing blame at VP, they are in business to fulfil a consumer need in the best way they can. Its just an observation that maybe in the not too distant future we will have to make all purchase decisions from a small picture and a brief description. Like the well-worn saying goes, ‘Use it or lose it!’