In last month’s column we had a seasonal look at online Christmas shopping in the UK and how we witnessed another year of growth, this month I want to discuss more good news for retail!
The UK High Street
During recent years the recession and the internet have been blamed for the decline in our high streets.
With traditional businesses going into liquidation and discount shops springing up everywhere, our high streets do not look the same as they did 10 years ago.
Businesses like HMV, who didn’t embrace the internet quickly enough, have had difficulties, but let’s not forget it was the rise of multiples like HMV that caused the decline of our independent shops 30 years ago.
It is true that the traditional retailers who have developed their online presence over the past 10 years are the ones who have enjoyed growth, particularly during the bumper Christmas period.
One of the advantages of trading online has typically been reduced overheads, but the disadvantage is almost certainly the levels of competition and the cost of marketing, which can be prohibitive.
There is also only a finite amount of business to be had from any retail channel and it is for these reasons that some online shops are expanding into the high street in a full circle turnaround for retail.
Online retailers on the High Street
The emerging trend that has been labelled ‘clicks to bricks’ or ‘e-tail to retail’ looks set to inject some well-needed activity back into our high streets.
Menswear brand Orlebar Brown, who supplied the swimming shorts that Daniel Craig wore in James Bond, has recently opened three London stores and more locally, online fashion retailer SimplyBe has opened a new store in the White Rose Centre in Leeds.
As more mature online retailers struggle to maintain the high levels of growth that they achieved over the past five years, the logical move for them is to expand into bricks and mortar stores, particularly as the UK begins to enjoy significant growth and consumers return to the high street.
Online retail is just one channel and though it provides convenience it can also bring frustration.
With the costs of goods becoming more aligned between the high street and online (partly due to online marketing costs versus rates and rent becoming transferable) and our enjoyment of physically shopping, this is great news for the high street, providing they also see multi-channel retail as important and embrace the net.
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