Friday, February 12, 2010

So Long Myer-Emco

The Post reported today that Myer-Emco, a high-end audio-video chain, is going out of business:
The death of MyerEmco can also be blamed on changing consumer behavior. In the past, specialty stores such as MyerEmco could charge more than big-box rivals, such as Best Buy, because they employed highly trained sales-and-service staff who were knowledgeable about the products they sold.

But with the proliferation of product information on the Internet, consumers are far less likely to walk into a bricks-and-mortar store and spend time speaking to an expert about a premium audio receiver than they once were. Consumers can learn about the receiver by consulting online experts and reading customer reviews. Then, they shop online for the cheapest price on the product, altogether bypassing specialist retailers. And even if prices at a specialist retailer were comparable to Big Box and online sellers -- as they were at MyerEmco in recent years -- the smaller stores carried a reputation for higher prices, and that perception has proved difficult to change.
The logic works for me.  But isn't this just a small example of a change in how information is handled in the economy? There's probably lots of instances where someone who used to know something others didn't has lost that edge.  I'm thinking of pharmacists, whose patients can now look up illnesses on the Internet; government operatives who deal face to face with customers, repairmen, etc.

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