Online shopping and the demise of the high street related?
2012 has seen online purchases overtaking high street stores for the first time. In a survey by SDL, 2000 shoppers across the UK were asked where they were going to buy this year’s shopping presents, revealing that 54.2% of overall spend will be online, 40% in-store, and the rest from TV channel shopping and catalogues.
Other revelations were:
- Convenience and price, with online discounts (36.8%), getting the best deal (31.9%) and the convenience of being at home holding the most importance (30.9).
- 6.8% of shoppers will be doing most of their Christmas shopping online during working hours, with 11.6% of 24-35 years olds to do the majority of their shopping during working hours.
- 8.9% of online shopping will take place on a smartphone, tablet or iPad, with 25-34 year olds most likely to buy through a mobile device or tablet.
- 55.8% of adults said they visited stores to review and try out products before then buying them online.
- In-store decision making is influenced most by the opportunity to evaluate products in person (44.5%), followed closely by the lack of shipping costs (39.2%) and in-store discounts (39%).
Of course, the advantages are obvious such as online stores being available 24 hours a day, with most consumers having Internet access both at work and at home. Some online stores have links to demonstrations, safety procedures, background information, how-to guides and most importantly customer reviews, all adding to the buying experience, without having to put your coffee down, or go out into the pouring rain.
There are some disadvantages linked with online shopping such as security concerns and fraud and although consumers must be vigilant, safety on the net is being tightened up with encryption and other security devices. The main disadvantage, mirrored by the survey was 90% of respondents, were not being given a concise delivery time, meaning taking time off work or having to stay at home all day.
There are people who love the experience of visiting the high street and having a shopping spree, there are them that hate the crowds, the parking congestion, and dislike the bright lights and loud music in some stores, online shopping can also cause headaches but they are shorter lived and with two clicks of the heels you’re back enjoying your coffee.
It is reported that the Prime Minister appointed Mary Portas to tackle the decline in the high street, with figures showing 30 stores a day closing in July and August 2012, such as Game Group, Peacocks, Past Times , Clinton Cards and JJB Sports, an increase from 20 a day in the earlier part of the year. The most recent being Jessops camera store , another reflection where consumers use the internet to buy electronic goods and also a higher trend in using smartphones to take photographs. Although I think the Government are as usual missing the point, where ideas such as setting up “town teams” and focusing on surficial problems sidestep (probably purposely) the real problem that overall decline mixed with changes in technology are the real problems.
But is our increasing trend to shop online the only reason our high street stores are thinning out? Although it is a big factor, there are other reasons, such as disposable incomes falling, retailers tied to high rents and long leases. These gaps in the high street are being filled with smaller enterprises such as charity shops, pound shops, betting shops, porn shops, cheap booze, and money exchange shops, all a sad reflection on our times, whereby even these stores will eventually fade away with the lack of visitors to our town centres, who would rather shop online or visit a retail park whilst taking in the cinema or bowling alley.
It will be a sad farewell to the high street, and town shopping , as for many years it has been a place not only to consume goods, but also a communal hub where people interact with each other socially and share news and life events. Maybe I’m a little old fashioned in my views, but with more people working from home, and being dependent on everything they require in life being delivered to the door, I fear it will fuel detachment from interaction with others and make the world a more solitary and unhappy place. Isn’t there more to life than convenience?