Brennan: Reality drives pet shopper online

By Tom Brennan |

Online sales and marketing are changing the world in wondrous new ways. I have tried to resist, but reality has made my little rebellion futile.

The closing of the once-dominant Nordstrom store in Anchorage brought the issue to mind, but I never was a Nordstrom shopper. My own experience is more personal. My wife and I have two dogs that we love dearly and try to keep happy. Both are Goldendoodles, one a 5-year-old female and the other a 13-month-old male.

An important consideration in taking care of dogs is their food and, of course, their treats. Bonnie, the female, took a liking early on to Greenies. To keep her weight down I give her the “teenie” size, with a large-size Greenie after each meal. And, naturally, I buy the low-calorie version, which helps with the weight thing. Her buddy, Baxter, eats the same things even if he is somewhat lackadaisical about them.

I have been buying dog stuff at the same local store for many years and am trying hard to give as much of my dog-treat business as possible to that retailer, even if it costs a little more than buying online.

The problem is that there are something like 20 different versions of dog treats. And when you factor in the various package sizes, a retailer must keep a supply of something like 40 to 60 different treat package options on hand to keep all customers happy. (Those are off-the-wall estimates, but representative of the situation.)

So, naturally, when I go to buy dog supplies, nine times out of 10 I will not be able to find available the kind and size treats my mutts like in stock. And the only answer, other than buying what is there at the expense of dog waistlines, is to order online.

I feel guilty about giving in on the issue, but reality can be problematic. And while I may be willing to take chances with my own nutrition, my dogs’ needs are something else so Amazon here I come. (I still buy their food locally, as long as it’s available.) 

My experience in the retail business was mostly a part-time job working for my grandmother in a small family-owned sporting-goods store during my high school days. I can’t say that I remember much about it, but the experience did teach me a few things about shoppers and shopping that have stuck with me.

The world’s buying habits have changed greatly in recent years with the onset of online shopping. You can order almost anything while sitting in an armchair and noodling over a laptop computer. You can save money in the process, have your purchases delivered in a matter of days and save time on traveling back and forth to the store.

And that time-scale is soon to be reduced even further. Amazon, which is now the world’s leading retailer, is moving toward next-day delivery almost wherever you are. Its latest investment is in a cargo airline that will make such speed quite possible.

Alaska was once considered far away from anywhere but — as those who challenged the Northwest Passage well knew — it is in some ways quite close to much of the world. And Amazon, which is headquartered just down the coast in Seattle, is now filling many of Alaskans’ wants and needs. Generally they are cost-effective and prompt.

Hopefully a solution will come along to enable Alaskan retailers to compete with giants like Amazon. The situation will change — that’s for sure — but in what way is impossible for we English majors to predict.

In the meantime I’m just keeping my head down and working to keep my dogs happy and healthy.

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