0 Comments |  Sole trader |  PRINT | 

Brisbane specialty grocer charges customers $5 "just for looking"

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 | By Yolanda Redrup

Users on Facebook and Reddit are up in arms today about a Brisbane speciality grocery store charging browsers $5 if they do not buy anything from the store, after people have been browsing in the store and then going elsewhere to buy their products.


"Brisbane's only gluten free and wheat free store" Celiac Supplies, located in the suburb of Coorparoo, is fed up with customers who come to the store, browse, but leave without buying nay of its products.


The store put a sign on the shop door earlier this year telling shoppers "this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person 'just for looking'".


The message from the store's management says "there has been a high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere".


Celiac Supplies claims this tactic is in line with many other retailers who are facing the same issue and says its customers are "unaware our prices are almost the same as other stores" and it offers products not available at other shops.


The sign also indicates customers will be refunded the $5 upon purchasing an item.


The story first came to light when Reddit user BarrettFox posted a photo of the sign on the popular photo-sharing website two days ago. The photo has so far attracted 1,317 comments and extensive media coverage.


Since the photo was posted on Reddit, the Celiac Supplies Facebook page has taken off. Customers and shoppers from around the world have commented on its page, with everything from criticisms to expressions of sympathy and advice from other shop owners on how to retain customers.


SmartCompany contacted Celiac Supplies but did not receive a response prior to publication.


Store owner Georgina, who did not want her surname published, told AAP about 60% of people would go into her store each week for advice or to browse but would then leave and buy the product at a chain supermarket or online.


"I've had a gutful of working and not getting paid. I'm not here to dispense a charity service for Coles and Woolworths to make more money.


"I can tell straightaway who are the rat bags who are going to come in here and pick my brain and disappear," she says.


Retail Doctor Group chief executive Brian Walker told SmartCompany the move is nonsensical and suggests the shop "wants to go out of business quickly".


"It's using an elephant to crush a peanut. Ultimately, the fact is you want to draw people to your brand, why would you then send them away?


"The question to understand is why the customers are not buying. Instead of imposing a fee for browsing, the owner should be looking at her product pricing, customer service and marketing," he says.


Walker says the sign will drive people away from the store and recommends stores get to know their consumers.


"You want to attract people to your brand, not turn them away, so look at advertising, branding, product niche and customer service. You also want to sell more to the ones you have, so look at your merchandise, staff knowledge, items for sale and survey your customers and find out what they like and don't like," he says.


Walker says retailers need to go back to basics, get to know their market and review product choices.


"I think finding out about your customers is essential. The reason this business is trying to charge for browsing is because people are not buying its products. You shouldn't charge people for browsing, but you can find out why they're not buying," he says.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.