Why 'showrooming' is hurting smaller Canadian retailers

A group that represents small and medium-size businesses in Canada says the consumer practice of "showrooming" is hurting local retailers.

Showrooming is using a retailer's physical store as a showroom to look at products and try things on, but then buy online in an effort to save money.

"Most people feel It's harmless," Jordi Morgan, the Atlantic Canadian vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"We see small businesses shutter their doors because they're no longer viable."

Morgan said showrooming is especially prevalent at sporting stores, where parents will come in with their child to get them fitted for a piece of equipment, have their questions answered by an employee and then take a picture of the barcode to find it online.

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Morgan said it's frustrating because the customers aren't planning to buy anything in the store, but they take up physical space and benefit from the employee's expertise.

He said the employee could be losing out on a potential sale from another customer that needs help and intends to purchase products.

Chris Campbell has been showroom shopping for years, but he didn't know it had a name.

The Yarmouth, N.S., resident said he's done it to buy hockey equipment for his son.

Campbell said there aren't any mom-and-pop sports shops locally, just larger retailers. He said if larger stores were better "corporate citizens" who gave back to the community, he would be more inclined to shop there.

'Think about those small businesses'

"I'm going to save 20 bucks and go and buy online," he told Maritime Noon.

Campbell said he'd shop at an independent hockey shop — if there was one in his community.

"I find that if you go to the mom-and-pop operations, and if those are the people that are sponsoring your local community, you're going to spend some more money there," he said.

Morgan said when people buy from Amazon or a major online shopping site, they're sending money out of their community.

"We hope people consider the contribution they're making to the local economy by actually patronizing our independent stores," he said. "Think about those small businesses in your community. This is the time of year that really matters most for them."

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