Online Retailers versus "Bricks and Mortar" Storefronts

Take a look at the major differences between buying online and buying in a "bricks and mortar" store, and why the latter may not be as good as you think.
By , Last updated on: 5/18/2014

There has never been a better time to buy a digital camera online. Reliable retailers, low prices, a great selection, and thousands of online owner reviews make it easier than ever to research, compare, and buy digital cameras with complete confidence.

In fact, buying a digital camera online makes much more sense than shopping at a camera or electronics store.

Skeptical? To convince you, we have answered some of the most common questions shoppers have about buying a digital camera online. You may be surprised by what you learn, and one thing is sure—you'll never think about buying from a neighborhood camera store or major electronics chain again.

Will I Save Money by Buying a Digital Camera Online?

In May, 2003 the team at Digital Camera HQ set out to investigate this question. We checked store prices around the country on eleven popular Canon, Nikon, and Olympus cameras and couldn't find a single authorized retailer that could match our retail partners' lowest price on any of the cameras, even with the shipping charge included!

Our research revealed that the lowest available store price was, on average, $54.30 higher than Digital Camera HQ's retail partners' lowest price. Shop at the most expensive stores, and you can expect to pay an average of $79 more than you would online.

As the table below shows, the cheapest store price we could find on the popular Canon PowerShot G3 was $89 more than the lowest price found on our site, even after including the shipping cost. If the compact 5-megapixel Olympus C-50 is more your style, you can expect to pay at least $80 more at a camera store than you would on our site, including the shipping charge.

While the prices listed below have changed since this chart was created, they are indicative of the money you will save when you shop through Digital Camera HQ.

Camera DCHQ Lowest Base Price + Shipping Lowest Store Price DCHQ Savings
Canon S200 $253.83 $279.00 $25.17
Canon S230 $356.00 $370.00 $14.00
Canon S400 $449.75 $489.00 $39.25
Canon G3 $599.83 $689.00 $89.17
Canon S45 $449.00 $499.00 $50.00
Canon S50 $520.00 $599.00 $79.00
Nikon 3100 $318.60 $400.00 $81.40
Nikon 4300 $390.15 $430.00 $39.85
Olympus Stylus 300 $350.00 $380.00 $30.00
Olympus C-50 $470.00 $550.00 $80.00
Olympus C-4000 $380.00 $449.00 $69.00
The lesson is clear- buying online from a Digital Camera HQ retail partner will save you money.

Is it Difficult to Return a Camera that I've Purchased Online?

Contrary to popular belief, it is generally safer to buy a digital camera online than it is to buy one in a store. This is because the majority of camera and electronics stores will not accept returns of opened digital cameras, and many won't even let you return a defective camera, which they consider it to be an issue for the manufacturer to deal with.

While some online retailers also make it difficult to return a purchase, most reputable companies offer customer-friendly return and exchange policies. Though specific policies vary, many online retailers offer returns and/or exchanges on both working and defective merchandise.

A digital camera can be an expensive purchase, and you deserve peace of mind that you won't be stuck with an unsatisfactory or defective camera—be sure to check a retailer's return policy before you buy a camera.

What Happens if My Digital Camera Breaks After the Return Period?

As long as you've bought your camera from an authorized online retailer, its warranty should cover repairs. If you buy from an unauthorized merchant, however, it is possible that your camera may not come with a U.S. warranty, in which case the manufacturer will refuse to make repairs.

Check a merchant's wesbite, as well as its ratings and reviews, to see whether the products they sell are intended for sale in the USA and covered by the manufacturers warranty. While products without US warranties are usually less expensive, you could be in trouble if something goes wrong with the camera after the retailer's return period expires.

Why Do You Give Instructions on How to Find the Lowest Price on a Retailer's Website?

Because of the complex relationship between camera manufacturers and retailers, stores are often not allowed to display the price of a camera if it is below the manufacturer's minimum recommended price. When this is the case, the retailer will request that you submit your email, add the item to a shopping cart, or click on a link to see the actual cost.


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