Retailers adapt to e-commerce with service

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — With e-commerce and online shopping playing an increasingly large part in today’s shopping habits, local retailers have adapted with updated business models.

The Lima News explored the topic on its the latest episode of Boom XYZ — a podcast examining local issues through the lens of multiple generations.

While the influence of digital tools often put a damper on many retailers’ bottom lines, Barry’s Electronics and Tracey’s Appliances have since leaned into providing exceptional customer service to make up the dollars originally earned through product-based profits.

“Service is the key at least to the existence of my company,” Bryan Barry, owner of Barry’s Electronics, said. “If all I’m doing is pushing brown boxes out the door, honestly, you can go on the Internet to do that.”

Jeff Tracey, owner of Tracy’s Appliances, said a major part of the shift to customer service has been due to customer expectations. Because anyone can buy most things off the Internet, they now expect more from brick and mortar sites.

“People expect more than they ever have, because we’re delivering more than we ever have, because that’s what the market requires,” Tracy said.

The end result is that both Barry and Tracy have reconfigured their business models to provide more and better services than rely on just selling the product — a switch that happened, Barry said, sometime close to the early 2000s.

Since then, business has been relatively stable for the two local retailers.

“The bottom got to the bottom pretty quick. And that was a little alarming to everybody but once you got to the bottom it’s easy to live with,” Tracey said.

Behind the scenes, the two have also seen technology shift how they work with those that supply their products. The number of buying groups have shrunk considerably due to consolidation in the last few decades, and today, very few retailers are competing on prices.

Consolidation has also pushed Barry to specialize with certain brands to ensure good business relationships down the line.

Outside of the retail business model, the products themselves have changed as the industry looks toward incorporating more digital tools. Both electronics and appliances have emerged with more features and related gadgets. Many appliances, for example, now have incorporated smart technologies, and the trend is growing in popularity.

“I’ve got refrigerators that’ll talk to the stove,” Tracy said. “The stove will talk to Alexa. Alexa will talk to the dishwasher and now the laundry products have just got started in on that.”

Barry is also heavily involved in helping customers create a “smart home” concept, which can be heavily customized to provide additional security options and other quirks.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he supports every digital fad.

“We’re the industry that came out with 3D TVs,” Barry joked. “You can’t trust us.”

You can listen to the full episode of Boom XYZ, at, or by subscribing to the series on your favorite podcast streaming service.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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