While online shopping may be on the rise, the only way to get your hands on this holiday's hottest products -- that is, if you don't want to pay opportunistic resellers several times the original price -- is through the old-fashioned way of going to stores in person.
On Tuesday morning, expect to see lines outside of Best Buy before its stores open among those looking to get their hands on one of the most elusive, hard-to-get items this holiday season -- the NES Classic Edition.
The $60 gaming console, which is a replica of the original Nintendo gaming system from the 1980s and comes pre-installed with 30 games such as Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda, pretty much immediately sold out everywhere when it was first released last month as nostalgic Gen X'ers scrambled to relive their youth and to share it with their children.
Since then, some retailers such as Target have been getting small drips and drabs of more inventory, with savvy shoppers who get wind of possible replenishments by calling stores and checking various websites often lining up outside waiting for doors to open for the precious few items that arrive on overnight trucks. The products are also being resold online at inflated prices on places like eBay.
Tuesday will be the first major refresh of the NES Classic Edition at Best Buy, whose stores will have "limited quantities" of the item. The Richfield-based electronics chain will give out tickets to customers waiting in line for only as many consoles as they have available and are limiting them one to customer. The retailer is not selling them at BestBuy.com -- only in stores.
“Two of the most common questions we’ve gotten this holiday season are, ‘Do you have the NES Classic edition?’ and ‘When will you get more?'” Amy College, a Best Buy merchant said in a blog post.
Meanwhile, Target will also be getting more consoles in between Tuesday and Thursday of this week. Lee Henderson, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-based retailer, said quantities will vary by store. The company will not be selling them online -- once again, only in stores.
The situation with the NES Classic Edition is similar to that of Hatchimals, the other "must-have" and hard-to-get item this holiday season. After the toys sold out earlier this fall, retailers such as Toys R Us and Target have been selling the limited number of replenishments they get in in their stores and not on their websites.
On the one hand, this creates more headaches and work for employees and consumers alike. Shoppers have to research which stores will be getting more inventory in and when and then wake up early and stand in line with no guarantee they will get one. Employees, meanwhile, have to deal with complaints from shoppers about people cutting in line or about other issues that may arise when tempers flare.
But on the other hand, it also levels the playing field allowing average customers the same chance as web-savvy resellers to get their hands on the items. This way, retailers also don't have to worry as much about their websites crashing from the huge surge of online traffic for such products.
Even in this age of online shopping, it's not unheard of for some items to still be sold just in stores. While most retailers these days put most of their Black Friday doorbuster deals online, some big-box retailers still limit their most eye-popping and deals that are severely limited in number to stores as a reward for those who wait in line outside of stores.
Just as with the NES Classic Edition and Hatchimals, it gives retailers another excuse to drive customers to their stores. In the process, they hope customers might feel a little more loyalty toward them and perhaps pick up something else while they're there.
In this day and age in which customers are increasingly becoming couch consumers as Amazon makes it easier and faster than ever to shop from your phone, the premium traditional retailers place in keeping customers in the habit of going to physical stores can't be underestimated.