Not so long ago we had a limited number of opportunities to shop. We either took a trip into town, shopped from a catalogue or we clipped out a coupon and popped it in the post. That was it.
Today however, there is an additional place to shop. Today we have the Internet and what a place to shop that is. Despite being the new kid on the block in terms of actual places to shop, the Internet is rapidly overtaking all other places to shop put together!
So if we now favour the Internet to satisfy our retail therapy habit, what future does the high street have?
Since the first online transaction fourteen years ago, the tide of sales from the high street to the Internet has been one way, and it’s been gathering pace.
No longer limited by a lack of available retail space, online stores can carry huge inventories that their bricks and mortar counterparts can only dream of. Fashion stores in particular, rather that electrical or home ware stores, have taken advantage of this new found freedom and can now offer unlimited fashion ranges and a wider selection of sizes within those ranges. Add to that a virtual fashion adviser, a style selector and online fashion shows, it’s no wonder that the bricks and mortar fashion stores future looks uncertain.
It’s no surprise that high street fashion stores also have an online presence, because the alarm bells have been ringing for some time. At least one well known name in catalogue and home shopping has seen Internet sales overtake it’s traditional catalogue sales this year and has responded accordingly. In monetary terms alone, the return on investment on the Internet far outweighs the return of investment from a printed catalogue. The costs of producing a printed catalogue are huge, which will be unsustainable if the switch to the Internet continues.
Without having a crystal ball, it’s fair to say that sooner or later (probably sooner), shopping trips to town and flicking through a catalogue will be more of an exercise in nostalgia than necessity.
To combat the swing away fro traditional shopping outlets, it’s hard to see how the high street and the catalogues can compete. There are just too many advantages to shopping online.
For the time being at least, high street fashion stores are playing their part in the whole shopping mix and I’d suggest we should use them or before long we’ll lose them.