Why Scrub Stores Shouldn’t “Sell Scrubs” Online

For those who own retail scrub stores, selling scrubs online seems like a simple, logical, and reasonable next step.

The scrub store owner looks around their brick-and-mortar store and thinks: “I sell scrubs in this store, and if I put them online I can sell them there as well.”

There are two conflicting issues with that statement. The first is thinking that a scrub store’s business is to sell scrubs. The second is that selling online is similar to selling in a store

Let’s take the first misunderstanding first. A scrub store’s primary business is not selling scrubs to people. If that’s all a scrub store did, it would be much better and easier to shut the retail store down and sell them online only. What scrub stores do is provides services to healthcare professionals who wear scrubs.

Scrub stores aren’t product-oriented businesses. They are service and customer oriented. Online stores are 100% product-oriented because that is all they have to offer. Scrub stores provided services that are included in the cost of the product. Even if the stores sold chef wear, or school uniforms, or formal wear, the business model is the same. Customers come into the store to see all the options available, to feel the fabric, fit, and function of each brand, and to be able to walk out (or order) the exact items that they want. And that doesn’t count the embroidery, the personalized packaging, and seamless exchanges, returns, and refunds.

An online store cannot do that. An online store can only show a customer a picture of something they may want to buy. If the customer knows exactly what they want, they can either order it online or order from a scrub store. It makes little sense to try to compete with online stores in products and price when every scrub store has every online store beat in the services the store can provide.

Don’t compete with online stores on their terms. Beat them on your terms. Provide outstanding customer service and create such loyal customers that when they do decide to order online, they have already decided to order through you instead of an online-only store.

The second idea – that selling online is similar to selling in a store – is similarly flawed. To explain why let’s reverse the concept. Let’s take a look at how a person who sells scrubs online might try to physically sell to customers.

Opening up an online store with nice-looking photos and competitive prices in this packed digital environment is akin to the online seller putting inventory into the trunk of his car and waiting outside a hospital to get people to buy. Most scrub store owners know that this won’t be a success. Even forgetting about the small inventory and the lack of a physical store, what about sales receipts, sales tax collection, making changes, processing credit cards, processing returns, and the hundred other skills a scrub store owner has refined over the years?

An online store needs a dedicated IT department, sales department, and marketing department. That is an entirely different staff than a brick-and-mortar scrub store needs. But having an online store without those dedicated employees would be like having a scrub store without anyone helping customers when they come in. It would be a losing proposition from the very beginning.

The bottom line is, selling scrubs online where loyal customers can buy them from you is absolutely a necessity. But a scrub store that attempts to replicate what Amazon,,, and others try to do is playing into their strengths while negating the scrub store owner’s advantages.

A scrub store owner’s website shouldn’t focus on products or pricing. It should focus on what the scrub store can do for the customer, in addition to providing them with scrubs. The website needs to tell the story of that store, what its values are, why it got into the business, and how much it enjoys serving healthcare heroes. That effort and message will gain a lot more customers – and garner more revenue – than trying to sell scrubs to online customers whom you’ve never met.