I’ve always had a bit of an interest in retail, which led to my not-so-long-ago unscientific walk-round of the West Quay shopping centre, so couldn’t resist looking at the latest stats on the retail sales. Probably the biggest trend of the last decade has to be the growth in internet shopping This graph, based on ONS data, shows the year on year growth in total retail sales for January 2013.
A couple of changes here are interesting. The first is the growth internet sales among predominantly food retailers. According to the ONS in January 2013 £96.2 million, some 3.7% of sales for food stores, was online which was a record proportion for the segment.
This is undoubtedly down to the rise in supermarket online shopping. I know it’s a service I’ve been using more often in the past 12 months, and will do more of in the future and now there’s click-and-collect. It all adds up to a major change in habits, although in many ways it’s a throwback to the not-so-distant past where we all used to get our milk and papers delivered to our door, a world destroyed by the supermarkets with their impressive product ranges and all-in-one-place convenience. The internet has succeeded by delivering our cake and letting us eat it.
Another interesting point, not in terms of size, but perhaps significance, is the growth of internet sales in the textile, clothing and footwear stores sector. In January 2013 a not insignificant 10.6% of sales in this group were made via the internet. This is significant as this is a segment where the internet would seem to have some distinct disadvantages over in-person shopping; Whilst items like books, CDs and DVDs are all standardised products clothing is much less standardised with sizes varying between stores hence the fitting-room, which, at least for the time-being, is not something which can be replicated easily on the internet.
Despite this however, online sales have grown and businesses such as ASOS (part of the non-store retailing group) have thrived. A change in our habits perhaps, are we more willing to buy without trying on, or to buy, try at home and return? If so then we’ve only seen the beginning of the transformation the internet will bring to the high-street.