It’s called “show rooming” – you go into a shop and see something you like, then use your smartphone to do an online price-check and if you can find it cheaper, you walk out. More often than not shoppers are choosing to buy products online rather than in-store: this has led to a number of high-profile retailers going into administration and much talk of the harmful effect this trend is having on bricks-and-mortar retailers. Experts have even warned that Britain is headed for a “serious retail crisis” in which a fifth of high street shops might close. We’ll have a look at what motivates people to shop online and how shops might be able to curb the trend.
Why are more people shopping online? The principal reason is: they save money. Online retailers have nothing like the overheads of their bricks-and-mortar counterparts – a website does away with a huge amount of staff costs, rents, utility bills. This allows them to sell items at a discounted price. You can go into an electronics store and play around with the latest Samsung tablet and then buy it online moments later. It is however patently false that you can always find a better deal online; never simply assume that by shopping at Amazon, for example, that you are getting the best price. A secondary reason is convenience: it seems everybody wants to save time where possible and what better way than by shopping online? You could spend an hour on public transport, a few hours walking around and braving the crowds, going from shop to shop; or browse the goods from the comfort of your sofa on your mobile phone or laptop. Or you can buy everything you want on the commute to work. Imagine you've got a new-born baby who you need to buy clothes for - you don’t have to leave the baby alone and can just Google Littlewoods Ireland Baby Clothes, for instance. It’s not hard to see why ‘a trip down the shops’ is now less appealing.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. According to a survey conducted by SDL last Christmas, the majority of over 55-year-olds still spend most of their money in physical shops. So there is still a generational gap that means the high street still has many patrons. There also specialist shops where the opportunity to get expert advice is enough to warrant spending money on a product – say, a sports shop where staff can recommend you the perfect running shoe or work out which tennis shoes are suited to your game. If bricks-and-mortar can offer an unparalleled service where customer satisfaction and staff knowledge are paramount then there’s no reason why they shouldn't survive. And we shouldn't forget clothes shops which still beat their online competition by providing the opportunity to try on items before you buy them. Many people also still feel more secure making their purchases in-store, especially when it comes to refunds or complaints. There is also the possibility that high street shops will be transformed into showrooms so that retailers can save on staffing costs while still displaying their wares.