Have you have been watching the Robert Peston Series on BBC Two - “Robert Peston Goes Shopping”? It tells the mind-blowing story of shopping in Britain since the Second World War and how shopping has changed - and how its changed us. From the years of austerity and rationing to the economic boom of the 1950s when consumerism took off and brands like Marks and Spencer led the way with a mixture of quality, value and customer service.
Back in 1984, the first out of shop transaction was made not online as the internet was still in its infancy but by a pensioner at home using a remote control to her TV. Since then the internet has changed the world of shopping and also the face of our high street. We’ve seen out of town superstores grow up with convenience being a big factor and the lack of free parking in towns driving consumers away from the High Street.
But there is nothing like the rise of online retailing and the financial crash to change shopping habits. eCommerce sales in the UK have taken off in recent years despite the UK recession. Online retail sales are growing because it is easier for customers and cheaper for retailers to supply their products and services online.
In August this year the IMRG/Capgemini E Retail Sales Index said online retail sales grew by 18% up from 9% in July when customers opted for the high streets in the heatwave. E-Commerce Europe, an umbrella association for national e-commerce industry organisations across the continent, calculates that Europe's market was worth €312bn (£269bn, $408bn) in sales during 2012. The UK plays home to 300,000 of Europe's online retailers, with a market worth €96bn.
In the UK we’re known as a shopping nation and we lead the world for ecommerce. A report by Verdict Retail claims that online shopping will account for £1 in every £7 spent by 2018.
There have been major changes in how and where we shop. In my local town of Bracknell the High-Street has changed beyond recognition. The High Street is no longer the domain of the traditional big brand retailers such as M& S or a department store like Bentalls. It’s the online retailers such as Amazon and Asos who dominate retail sales not the traditional High Street brands.
High-street retailers should embrace the internet and think about becoming multi-channel retailers i.e. not to offer either an online or an offline channel to market alone. Fashion chains and brands must invest in their online platforms to join up with their offline channels. They need to understand how one affects the other. A recent Econsultancy report found that 44% of UK consumers always research purchases online before actually buying in-store. This presents a huge opportunity for retailers to make websites drive customers to your stores and to make it easier for shoppers to find out about you, your stores and to buy products.
While some brands are responding well to technology, others must catch up quickly. Brands need to be accessible, both online and offline, in order to remain relevant to their customers.