Like most people, my shopping habits have been slowly changing, with more of my hard-earned dollars spent with online retailers at the expense of traditional stores. This pandemic has really kicked things into high gear, though. My Australia Post delivery person is now an almost daily visitor.
Home delivery might be convenient but, in my opinion, everything else about online shopping sucks.
We’ve all had issues with getting the sizing for clothing and shoes right. Slouchy and stretchy attire is fine, but anything else is a crap shoot. Woe betide those that think they’re buying a new pair of jeans online, or a tailored anything. Sure, go ahead and buy it; just realise you’re probably going to have to send it back.
Then there’s the issue of quality. Too many of my purchases have featured scratchy fabric, dodgy workmanship and misleading images. I’ve learned the hard way that “vegan leather” is simply code for plastic.
At least on these occasions I got what I ordered. More frequently items are either missing or something altogether different turns up. Then you enter Dante’s seven circles of hell as the Rs of online shopping – Return, Refund, Replace – turn into Rant, Rage and finally, Resignation.
This is not the case for all online sites. Omni-channel retailers (industry speak for those that offer traditional bricks and mortar stores and online shopping) seem to do a better job, especially with a store network making returns, refunds and replacements easier. It’s also reassuring to know you have the convenience of online shopping knowing there’s a nearby store, usually with sales staff that understands the consumer.
But there’s one sector which, despite an omni-channel presence, hasn’t made the crossover to online really work for the end consumer – groceries.
Unlucky enough to live near the hot spot regions in Victoria during the most recent virus outbreak, I willingly got myself tested at the beginning of this week. Foolishly, I did this without a pre-emptive, pre-isolation trip to the supermarket.
No problem I thought, a quick food shop on the Coles or Woolies website will do the trick. My order was due that afternoon, which wasn’t an issue. It’s not like I was going anywhere. Then I received an email telling a couple of my items were unavailable, including bread and milk!
I’ve used online grocery shopping before and it has never failed to be a terrible experience. If you’re stocking up on canned goods, boring pantry supplies, cleaning products – things that aren’t really ESSENTIAL – no problem.
But when shopping for your daily needs, having the option to grab an alternative straight off the shelf is really useful. Each time I’ve used an online option for groceries it’s been a continuous issue of unavailable items, substitutions that don’t work, missing products and no way to get the things we need, which were the things we ordered. Heading to the supermarket is still a long way from being replaced by an online experience.
Retail is a broad term, covering everything from ultra-high end boutiques to local, high street shopping precincts. At APN Property Group, our preferred retail exposure is to the non-discretionary end of town; your local supermarket and shopping centre precincts which we all continue to rely on – pandemic or not.
Currently, our portfolio has around a 35%1 exposure to the retail sector. Of that, more than half is invested in landlords focused on non-discretionary shopping, giving our investors exposure to their local Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, convenience stores and those shops we all rely on, regardless of what’s going on in the outside world. This is our job – to manage our investors’ money, directing it to those AREITs with better prospects for relatively attractive distributions in a COVID-19 world and beyond.
As for me, I’m now stuck at home without milk, in isolation and without the ability to pop to the local shops to get some more. Crucially, this means our coffee machine will lie dormant and I can say with certainty that, without caffeine, our household will turn on each other soon enough.
My first stop as soon as I’m released from quarantine? The supermarket. Bread and milk here I come.