Google's Froogle shopping search engine added a new feature to let people find products and services for sale in bricks-and-mortar stores near locations they designate.
For example, if you wanted to find all the stores selling cameras near Newport Beach, California, a search for cameras newport beach or cameras 92663 brings back matching results, both in a list and plotted on a map. You can also search just for cameras, then enter a ZIP code, city or state into a second search box that will appear.
How is this different from just doing a search on Google Local? Well, you can compare. Here's cameras 92663 on Google Local. You'll see that camera stores are listed in Google Local, while Froogle lists individual cameras for sale in various locations.
Another example is a search for ipod video 92663. In that case, Froogle shows you that several CompUSA stores have it in stock. A quick drive, and it would be in your hands if you needed it fast. In contrast, the same search on Google Local does poorly, bringing back two Apple Stores that probably have the item in stock but mostly a lot of places that won't, such as The Friends Of The Newport Beach Library.
Google's Shopping Service to List User's Local Stores from the New York Times and Google unveils tool to map shopping trips from the Associated Press say the data comes from a third-party inventory database that Google won't name. Google has long accepted feeds from merchants and others for Froogle, so it's likely making use of multiple sources to compile the data. Both stories cover that Google hopes the new Google Base service will also help add this type of data into Froogle in the future.
Comparison Engines notes that the feature CNET already offers a Local Stores search as part of its CNET Shopper service. Sadly, a search for ipod video 92663 brought up no matches, nor did I have much luck coming up with any product that would show me a Local Stores tab in addition to the Online Stores tab as you see in this example.Postscript from Gary: Two other online shopping databases also allow you to search by location/Zip Code. First, Cairo.com, the shopping search engine allows the user to enter a location/Zip and a product type of category and find where products are available locally. For example, this search for Cameras 20901 found a number of hits for stores near my home (you can narrow by a radius). The results appear to come from primarily large retailers (Target, Rite Aid, Circuit City, etc.). One-click provides a map and directions to the store. Another useful feature from Cairo is their "Sales Alert" feature that will notify you by email if/when the price of a specific product is reduced. Cairo also offers a "price match tracker" to learn if another store is selling the item for a lower price. Btw, the Cairo datatbase is also completely browsable.
Second, ShopLocal.com offers much the same with mostly items from prirmarily large national stores but I also spotted a few regional and local merchants. ShopLocal also provides price alerts and does offer some online shopping options. For example, you can quickly determine the online price versus going to the store and purchase price.
Postscript 2 From Gary: It's also worth noting that Amazon.com offers an option to order selected books online and then and then pick the book up at a nearby brick and mortar bookstore. For example, a search for John's "The Search" illustrates this option.
The same is true for electronics. For example, I can order this Apple 30GB Color iPod from Circuit City online and then go pick it up today at a nearby Circuit City location.