How do we feel about the move to online shopping?
Remember those Absolutely Fabulous telly icons, Edina and Patsy? After hosing back a bottle or three of Bolly, they’d slide into their chauffeur-driven limo for a little therapeutic “shopping darling” or retail therapy, and set off for “Harvey Nics” or some other up-market outlet in Knightsbridge or down Kensington High Street way. shops
How times have changed and how speedily, and how would those mostly sozzled big-time spenders cope with today’s new normal – online shopping? Chances are they would have to, although it’s difficult to imagine the terrible twosome hunched over a laptop attempting to log in to an Amazon account. “What was the password, Patsy darling?” “Er…I think it was Bollyfortwo, darling.” “Mmm, is that the number two or the word?” “Oh, I don’t know, darling, just use them both!” It could take some time. But shopping has changed, probably forever, and despite Harvey Nichols and others continuing to fly the still open-for-business flag, many stores; big, famous name groups as well as small, single outlets, have disappeared. And it goes on, with high streets across the length and breadth of the UK losing on average 50 shops per day.
That’s per day. Shops have been struggling for years, ever since online selling became a reality, but the more rapid decline began last year as Covid-19 lockdowns started to bite. And even though restrictions have eased, shops continue to suffer, and while some brave souls are actually opening new outlets, far more are closing.
But do we, the buying public, really care?
Online shopping is, of course, far more convenient, and much easier when hunting out bargains and making comparisons between one seller and another. It’s also time saving, can be done whenever suits best, even late at night after a hard day’s work, and it doesn’t involve lugging heavy shopping bags back to the parked car – if you can remember where you parked the car and have the change to get out of the car park. But then, wasn’t there something more friendly and sociable about a shopping trip to the high street? Just idly browsing, chatting with that nice shop assistant who always recognised you, stopping off for a coffee and a chat with a chum?
Our survey figures appear to demonstrate that while many of us believe it important, 48%, or even very important, 17%, to keep a wide variety of shops thriving on our high streets, our actual shopping intentions over the next twelve months paint a different picture. While 27% of us reckon they will be shopping mostly online, a full 51% say they will be shopping equally online and in-store, and that in itself could sound the death knell for many more shops. But even more worrying for under siege shop owners is the fact that only 19% of those surveyed said they would be shopping mostly in-store. It doesn’t bode well for our high street stores and signals little prospect of champagne celebrations any time soon.