Suddenly Shopping

26 02 2012

It’s funny how everyone likes to talk about how easy online shopping is compared to its brick-and-mortar counterpart. But anyone who tries to buy merchandise from multiple outlets on the same day knows that even the modern, newfangled convenience of e-commerce can become a taxing situation. Having to enter (and re-enter) personal information and credit card numbers each and every time you buy something can start to become time-consuming.

Which is why Suddenlee shopping makes so much sense. It brings over 300 online shops together under one account, and provides next-day delivery of your purchases all in one box. It’s not a whole lot different from local restaurant delivery firms that bring together the entrees of many food service providers.

As I tell my students, never assume that all the innovations have been made. Each change, regardless of how continuous or discontinuous, brings with it a whole slew of new problems and opportunities. This is yet another example. E-commerce may have allowed us to shop in our pajamas, but all that clicking could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The only problem with Suddenlee is that it’s only available in the northeast US. Everyone else will have to wait while the company figures out how it can expand.

Here’s how it works: Suddenlee has partnered with several hundred vendors (some of which do not even sell goods online), to create a virtual shopping mall. Once your order is placed, Suddenlee sends employees out to purchase the items from a tree-state area (PA, NJ and NY). Standard overnight shipping rates apply; Suddenlee adds $2.50 for each purchase you make starting with the third vendor.

The consolidation that Suddenlee provides (not to mention overnight delivery) is a huge attraction, and no doubt one that consumers in the current service area like. I suspect there are many people throughout the rest of the US awaiting expansion into new markets. By being able to put all purchases into one box, the customer saves money on shipping.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how Suddenlee makes much money on the deal. This is a very labor-intensive service. Covering parts of three states means there’s a lot of running to be done, at a time when gas is increasingly expensive. Unless Suddenlee has negotiated discounts with its vendors (and thus marks up everything) as well as its overnight courier, the margins in this business must be slim. The $2.50 vendor fee only kicks in after the second source, and unless the runner is picking up purchases for many Suddenlee customers at the same time, it could quickly become a fool’s errand.

But I must give some credit where it is due. Bringing the wares of 300 shops together is an admirable feat, and come Christmastime, I can see Suddenlee being inundated with orders. As long as the vendor selection meets my needs, being able to make one transaction is very appealing.

Because in a matter of minutes I could find myself suddenly sleeping. Sure beats having to spend time doing the thing I like the least.

Dr “Delivering The Goods” Gerlich



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