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Internet shopping booms at the expense of traditional retailers

Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

This year I did the bulk of my Christmas shopping in one day but unlike many British people, I braved the shops rather than shopping online from the comfort of my own home. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience. One of the shops was so hot that it was almost empty. While staff walked around in t-shirts, customers were sweltering in their winter gear and everyone I passed seemed to be complaining about the temperature. Another store required me to venture to the fifth floor and since the lift was broken I took the stairs back down, but the lack of signage meant there was no indication of what floor I was on, or indeed of how I could actually get out! Other shops couldn’t resist the temptation to squeeze as much merchandise onto the floor as possible, which didn’t work with crowds of Christmas shoppers.

On the other hand, some shops were brilliant! Shelves rearranged to create more space and enticing displaces, free goodies handed out, plenty of friendly staff to help. It’s those shops that make the experience fun, and are the reason why every year I buck the trend and resist online shopping. Figures released at the weekend by the British Retail Consortium and analysts at Springboard showed that the number of shoppers across the UK was down 2.9% on November last year. Meanwhile, spending online in November was up 10% on a year ago. According to the Guardian article reporting this, bricks and mortar sales may be down because people are leaving shopping until the last minute this year, or holding out for discounts. Or, maybe people are fed up with the hustle and bustle of hot, crowded shops. Yet despite the trend, the article reminds us that 90% of shopping in the UK is still carried out in physical stores.

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