Hang on a minute, don’t dismiss this as a blog piece that is going to be totally biased towards online shopping just because you are reading it on my online gift shop website.
So, as you know, online shopping pays for school books for my four children, it pays for the food we eat and so on but what you may not know is that brick retail, the British high street, paid for my books, clothes, food and holidays when I was growing up. My father still has investments in the high streets of the UK and so obviously he feels very strongly about matters of the high street and the current down turn that retail units are suffering. Are we going to lose our high street and is it due to online shopping?
Online shopping continues to grow each year. According to the Office of National Statistics, as at November 2017 online sales equate to 17% of all retail sales and the average weekly spend in November online was £1.2 billion. No, that was not just my online shopping bill, honest. The UK is second biggest online shopping European nation, beaten only by Norway.
Why is online shopping so popular?
- No high street store could ever offer everything that is online, it would have to be a mahussive building and boy would that clock up the 10,000 steps just for some blue socks.
- Hands up who regularly shops online while dressed in their pjs, mismatching socks, a cuppa or glass of wine in hand and face scrubbed of make-up. I really do imagine you all ordering from us half sozzled and looking like your hairbrush has been missing for a week! You don’t have to go out and be drenched in the rain, cope with the cold wind when you are walking down the high street to be then boiled alive in the local department store.
- I hate having to use changing rooms. You strip off to your undies in front of an unflattering mirror, your own clothes having to be left on the dirtiest carpet, in a store that is too hot (yes, being too warm is a real bug bear of mine). Online clothes shopping means you order more than you plan to, take it to the bedroom, try it on, check it works with other items in your wardrobe, check with your friends that the mirror isn’t lying and it doesn’t make you bum look like James’ giant peach.
- You have more rights when buying online. You can order online, you don’t like it you can return. You buy something in the store and get it home and realise you don’t like it, well, you are relying on the goodwill of the store.
- Not having to fight for a parking space, squeeze your family tank in a space that can only really fit a smart car and then pay a quarter of the family’s food bill for the parking privilege.
- An internet search for what you need in your lunch break while munching on your tuna sarnie, means precious weekend time with the family.
So, with all those benefits, does that mean I foresee the great British high street becoming a long line of houses and flats in the future? Far from it.
We will always need the high street, and the shopping centre.
You would never buy a new television, speaker system, computer without first seeing it in use. You might go online to read reviews and do some price comparisons but you will always want to visit a brick building to see it for yourself. There are times when you need to buy something immediately and can not wait for the courier or postman to come knocking. Although companies like Amazon are working on the logistics of drone deliveries so you can have our item within an hour, that is someway off. In today’s reality if we need to buy something for immediate use we have to go to the shops to buy it. Also, a girlie shopping trip online is never going to replace the high street.
Should an online shopping tax be introduced?
My father says he wants an online shopping tax introduced. I can see his point, when I talk to local shops, yes, the ‘competition’ and I do talk, their biggest grievance is Business Rates. Business Rates are set by the government but a proportion of what is taken is given to the local authority while the government keeps the other half and the local authority are able to add a levy to pay towards local improvement schemes. As you know with all the government austerity cuts including cuts to local authorities funding, business rates are needed to keep vital services going but business rates are the third biggest expense for many small businesses after rents and wages. For many companies this is a crippling cost. Also, we, the consumer, need to accept some blame to the number of empty units. Recently there was a thread on Mumsnet where a mum was lamenting on the potential loss of another high street store, she said she used to love shopping there when she was younger, and then she stated that she had not shopped in the store for a long while. If you don’t use it you lose it!
The responsiblity for the demise also lands at the feet of the high street retailer
Finally, the high street retailers need to accept responsibility to the demise of high street shopping. Shopping in their stores used to be pleasurable, a treat. These days it feels like you are entering a battlefield and I embrace it with as much enthusiasm as I do going to hospital. For a while I have been noticing an atmosphere change in a large retail chain, nearly all of you will have visited this business, and many of us are fans of their knickers and food. Yup! That store. I first noticed it in my local shop and then when I visited a few other stores of theirs I noticed that the atmosphere was strained there as well. After a bit of persistent asking I found out that the staff had been instructed to not talk to each other, only customers. Staff who were always friendly, chatty and helpful, and employed for that reason, have been told to stifle that side of themselves. The same store has also built up its displays so when you walk in through the doors you cannot scan the across the floor space to work out which direction you want to head in, the idea being the more you have to walk round the more you are likely to buy. Unfortunately, it is quite the turn off, I avoid shopping in Sports Direct for the same reason, I do not want to feel like I am trapped in a maze like a lab rat with the prize being a pair of nearly black tights.
Our high street is going to change, it has to, with smaller units, hopefully more independent shops and I so hope back to old fashioned ideals of making shopping pleasurable rather than a chore otherwise our skies are going to darkened by the sheer number of drones that are going to be in the sky and my girlie shopping trips are going to be in just coffee shops and bars!
Happy shopping wherever you go!
What do you think about the High Street? Do you think you will miss it if we do loose our shops? Please comment below, your full name will be shortened to initials and your email address will be hidden for your privacy.
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