FAMILY Blog: In Store for Back to School

I’ve had a brick-and-mortar store rebirth. With back-to-school time nearly here (see our Back-to-School Guide on pg. 30), like everyone, I planned to do most of my back-to-school shopping online. That plan has changed. I’m venturing into stores.

It first happened earlier this year, when my son needed a new tennis racket. I went to a local shop, and had a wonderful experience learning lots about tennis rackets from the store’s owner. A few months later, I needed clothes and went to a large retailer. I was given one-on-one customer service with much needed style advice (solicited by me), which exceeded all my expectations. When I needed a mattress topper, I made sure to go back to that store because of their excellent service. I was hooked. From computer parts to shoes, I’ve started relying less on online shopping.

The brick-and-mortar stores have definitely stepped up their game. Customer service was a dying art, and many stores seem to be bringing it back. Over these past few years, I can tell that they’ve invested in hiring and training sales people to not only be available, but to answer questions, help and be proactive in anticipating what you want and need. Showing this level of customer service is paying off; at least with this transformed shopper. Personal service is something online shopping can’t replicate. Brick-and-mortar stores have a lot to overcome to remain competitive with online retailers, but this detail could bring the customer back.

I read a little about retail trends and a lot of it is about the technology of how to make shopping quicker, easier, cheaper. But what about the fun or tactile experience of in-person shopping? And what about the convenience of not having to return stuff (or forgetting to) when you order online because it’s not quite right? I think I’ve saved some money with my new in-store shopping philosophy by only buying what fits, is the right color, right price and performs the job. According to Vend’s Retail Trends and Predictions 2017, “2017 will favor retailers who come up with smart, bold ways to personalize and elevate every aspect of the shopping experience.” I’d say they’re off to a good start.

When I do my back-to-school shopping, some will be done online—you can’t beat the prices and convenience. But, I will also go out and experience some good customer service.

And when you do your back-to-school shopping, don’t scoff and forgo actually going into stores. I’ve tested it: The water’s fine—plus its fun!

Besides our Back-to-School Guide, this issue features the inaugural Teachers of the Year winners. Our readers nominated then voted for local teachers during the spring and summer. While it would be great to feature all of the area’s teachers, this is just a snapshot of the talent we have in the DMV. As parents, we are so very lucky. Our children benefit and thrive under their instruction. But, I’m not quite ready for my child to start spending time in the classroom—just a little more summer, please.

And it’s not just me: I don’t think kids are quite ready for the start of school either. Except for the excitement of getting new back-to-school kicks…hopefully purchased in store.

Sylvia Witaschek

Associate Publisher

Washington FAMILY Magazine

[email protected]

About WF Staff

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