Clicks to Bricks

Online shopping may be increasing, however, a physical store presence is still holding high importance.

In March 2017, The Office for National Statistics reported that online sales (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 19.5%, which is clearly, a significant growth. However, even though e-commerce is increasing, it is worth noting that online sales only account for approximately 15.5% of all retail spending – clearly proving the need for bricks and mortar.

Shopping in-store offers tactility; consumers can see, touch and try on items before they purchase. They can enjoy the in-store experience, smell the scent, listen to the brand’s music and try similar products. Online shopping doesn’t offer the same interaction you get in a physical store; exceptional service, personal shopping, events and freebies. All of that is missed when shopping online.

Personally, I find, although online shopping does offer convenience, ultimately it can become a chore. As I work weekdays, I either get the item delivered to home (which then goes to a neighbour or the local post office) or to the office (which I then have to carry home on the train). The time I spend getting the item home, trying it on and then if it’s no right, re-packing and taking to the post office to return is highly frustrating – not to mention the annoyance of paying for postage. And it’s not just us shoppers that feel the pain, the cost of returns almost results in a loss for some retailers!

I am much more inclined to dedicate a morning to visit a local shopping centre, enjoy the experience and have confidence what I buy is right.

It is clear physical stores are needed, many retailers are starting online as it is a cost-effective way to test the market, but are moving to open stores. Examples of this new “clicks-to-bricks” trend include; Missguided, Hill & Friends and Orlebar Brown. Having a store allows these retailers to build their brand, interact with customers and learn more about their consumer base.

It is great to see Shopping Centres supporting start-up retailers in getting physical space, working with the British Independent Retailer’s Association (BIRA) and Revo on their new scheme ‘Free Space+’. This scheme will offer free space and support worth of £30,000. To benefit from this, retailers have the opportunity to apply, highlighting their preferred shopping centre and why they deserve the space – landlords include; Westfield, British Land, Hammerson, Capital & Regional, M&G, Montagu Evans, Ellandi, New River Retail and Moorgarth!

Online shopping held a dark cloud over the future of our high streets and shopping centres, but recent consumer behaviour reports are showing it’s not all doom and gloom. It will be interesting to see how the retail landscape changes with new innovations such as automotive shopping, RFID developments and mobile apps, but, I don’t think one will outplay another. The ability to shop online is a great benefit which will continue and will undoubtedly develop further, however, the in-store experience is developing alongside this, utilising the digital developments, keeping its value and the footfall.

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