Earlier this year I drove over to one of my usual haunts, Crick Camera in Kansas City. I have been a customer there for years. Bought 4 cameras, at least 8 lenses and an array of accessories. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. Much to my horror, the store was closed. Permanently. After 70 years. I was lucky enough to see one of the regulars and we had a long chat, shed a few tears. Roberts Camera had bought the remaining inventory and that was that. All the staff seem to have landed into new jobs or careers. It is such a shame and i will miss visiting there regularly and spending money on stuff that will not improve my photography, but i need it anyway. I don't like buying cameras and lenses on line. I need to hold them and see how they feel on my hand. There is still one shop left that i know of in the area. It is also a good shop with knowledgeable staff and a nice selection of lots of things (but no Olympus unfortunately). I hope it can last. I just wanted to post this somewhere to share some sadness in another casualty in part from the impact of online shopping and the changes in technologies.
Yes, had the same experience many years ago with my local camera store near Glasgow, Scotland.
With them, it wasn't so much online competition that killed them, but the nonsensical way that business was being done. An example: I bought two Hasselblads and three lenses from them, over the years; one day I went to buy something else for the outfit and the owner told me sorry, he was no longer able to deal with them. On asking why, after so long, he told me that Hasselblad would not supply him at prices at which the big dealers in London were able to sell!
If that's not crazy I don't know what the hell is.
Competition is fine, but that competition should come from internal, retailer good housekeeping, not because the makers will give stuff to different retailers at different prices! In essence, those manufacturers are killing the outlets themselves, and not leaving that up to the other retailers to achieve through business competitiveness. Why the manufacturer thinks it makes a better deal to move fifty bodies at low prices instead of fifty bodies at a higher, standard price, I have no idea. Anyone in the market for a Hasselblad was not about to buy a Bronica 6x6.
The loss isn't even just the loss of a convenient local outlet, but as you say, of the hands-on experience that lets you know if something is for you or not. The shop I used was also a Leica specialist, so more than 'blad lost out. The entire photographic community of the area also lost out because the owner of the shop really knew his equipment. Even better, he could have stuff brough in just to examine. And all of it without the inconvenience of hanging about waiting for UPS or any other of those services to turn up at your door, or one near you.
With online, I see it inevitably getting worse and worse.
There are those who say but it's great for the customer! No it's not. You have to accept that business has to work for both sides of any deal. As with the stock-picture business, drive price down too far and you reach a point where the good people just hang up and stop supplying anything, and you are left with the chance arrival of stuff from God knows where. To stay in business, those who thought it clever to cut prices have to cut ever more just in an effort to be the last to die in the race to the bottom.
What it is, is a manifestation of the dissolution of our civilization as is sinks ever more deeply into self-obsession and total disregard for anything or anyone other than the individual. Don't believe me? Look where the concept of family is going.