The exponential ballooning of online shopping over the past couple of decades has led many commentators to foretell the inevitable death of high street retail, with one in seven of high street shops already lying empty. The reality is a little more complicated. While certain high-profile retail giants such as Virgin Megastore and Comet have disappeared from city centres, the latter famously and disturbingly “cannibalising” itself by selling its products cheaper online than in its own physical stores, others, such as Whistles, Zara and Abercrombie & Fitch, have seen burgeoning profits.
The changes in buying behind this follow several patterns. Firstly, as shown by the lists above, people are more likely to go online for products where they can be reasonably assured of what they’re getting, such as electronics, music and digital entertainment, but still prefer to head out to a real world shop for products where touching and trying out the goods on offer is important to making a decision on a purchase.
Secondly, in a recession, value for money is an increasing concern for households with dwindling disposable income, so shoppers are seeking out deals wherever they’re available – online or offline. Retailers that have identified this gap in the market for the cheap and cheerful, such as Aldi and Poundland, have also seen growth.
Furthermore, while the internet is often seen as the enemy of the high street, it’s potentially an additional market place for established brick and mortar stores. Retailers like John Lewis, which embrace a digital presence, give consumers the chance to browse and make decisions more easily, while still supporting well known and loved shops.