11/27/2019 14:50 EST | Updated 11/29/2019 11:18 EST

'Showrooming' Is The Holiday Habit That Could Kill Your Neighbourhood

Sure, it saves you money now, but it might hurt you in the long run.

Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images
A woman browses through winter clothing at a Winners store in Toronto on Sept. 23, 2016.

TORONTO — Have you ever entered a local retail store, looked around and left without buying anything, only to purchase that same product you were looking at online or elsewhere?

Well, you’re not alone. While some savvy window-shoppers might call it shopping around for the best price, others have a more ominous term for this behaviour. 

Retailers call it “showrooming,” and local sellers are not happy about it. 

A new survey published Wednesday from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) suggests 60 per cent of independent retailers say they’ve witnessed showrooming, and a third of those say it’s hurting their bottom line. 

Watch: Here are some of the Canadian stores that have closed this year. Story continues below. 


CFIB president Dan Kelly says this hurts small businesses because it wastes their time, resources and money without a payoff. And it could hurt your neighbourhood because these local sellers are the ones supporting communities through taxes, employment, donations and annual food drives, Kelly says.

“They care about their customers and want to help and share their expertise, but their rent, their property taxes and their employees need to be paid,” Kelly said. “Ultimately, when consumers take up the time of local retailers but spend their money elsewhere, it’s our communities that suffer.”

Shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 appear to be the biggest culprits, with three out of four admitting to this behaviour, and one in seven saying they do it often, according to a CFIB survey of Angus Reid Forum members. 

CFIB director Ryan Mallough says this practice may seem harmless, but it can really hurt independent retailers, especially those going up against big box stores and online giants such as Amazon, Walmart, Costco and the Home Depot. 

The CFIB says it has received hundreds of examples of this kind of behaviour. In one case, a customer went to a local hardware store seeking help picking a paint colour, only to take that carefully chosen colour swatch to a big box retailer for a cheaper price. 

“You wouldn’t sit down in a restaurant just to read the menu and get some cooking tips from the chef before heading to the grocery store,” Mallough said.