I've got something that's bothering me, and I'd like to get your take on it.
Like so many other people, I've gotten comfortable with both the idea and the process of buying equestrian goods on-line. I've learned to surf my way through various sites, comparing products, and can fill out an order form and send payment via PayPal faster than I can stand in a checkout line and write a check.
This wasn't something I learned to do by choice--it was more of a necessity, seeing as how I live in a locale that has little in the way of anything resembling a tack or Western store. I can buy a few things--brushes, lead ropes, dewormer, fly spray, and the like--at our hometown hardware store, but even it doesn't have much to pick from. As for show hats, boots, saddles, and most other forms of tack, I'm looking at driving 100 miles to find a standard store. Not something I can do every day, or even every month, which is where on-line shopping takes up the slack.
But therein lies the very thing that bothers me. The people who own stores like the one 100 miles from here are under seige by the on-line-buying phenomenon. Most have family-type operations and are having a harder and harder time of staying afloat thanks to on-line competition. Our own town had such a store when we moved here 10 years ago, but went under as more and more shoppers found cheaper prices and greater selection on their computer screens. We did our best to support it while it remained open...but its demise is what forced me to get over my reluctance to learn how to shop via computer.
Now, I feel bad when I see and hear about other stores being forced to close their doors. Because to me, there really ISN'T a replacement for the experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, and I love to visit and buy from such stores whenever I come upon them in my travels. Going on-line is my fall-back solution to the dwindling number of traditional retail providers. And even though I, alone, am not responsible for their situation, it bothers me to be a contributor.
So what do you think? Are we past the tipping point here, where the end of conventional equestrian retail stores is only a matter of time? Do rural-area people like me owe it to our horse industry to make that extra effort to be a regular patron of conventional stores? By buying on-line, are we trading the viability of stores and a valued branch of the industry for our own convenience and chances to save some bucks? Or do each of us just need to do whateve works for us, and let the change-chips fall where they may?