Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Online shopping

I bought about 40 Christmas presents this year. 39 of them were bought on line and everyone was delivered safely before Christmas. The only present I bought in a shop was a box of Jo Malone perfumes for my wife. I happened to be passing their shop in Brook Street. I felt a bit out of place when I entered – it being full of ‘women who shop’ at the time. Anyway, I expected the perfumes I bought to fit in my briefcase. But the rather posh assistant insisted on gift wrapping them which meant I had to carry a huge Jo Malone bag to all my following meetings and then back on the tube and train. When I told this tale to my wife on Xmas Day she thought I was mad. “Jo Malone has an excellent website, why didn’t you use it like I do?”.

I only tell this story to illustrate the prediction made by IMRG this week that internet shopping will account for half of the UK’s £300b retail market in ten year’s time. IMRG reckon that, at £53b, in 2007 17% of retail trade has been transacted online – up 75% on 2006.

I find these predictions entirely feasible. Indeed, I think they might be an underestimate. As readers know, I believe that the change in the age demographics will accelerate this trend – with the over 55s embracing internet shopping with a vengeance.

This is just bound to have a major effect on the High Street. Personally I hope it will mean more specialist shops – like butchers, bakers, cheese shops etc. All things that I’d never buy on line and thoroughly enjoy visiting in person. I also expect more “showrooms” – a bit like the Apple and new Nokia stores. Places where you can see, touch and play with things before you then buy them on line. As ever, it’s the “Bricks and Mortar” brigade that have the most to both fear and gain. Those that embrace it – M&S and John Lewis are two current excellent examples- will prosper in the “New World”.

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