Death of the corner shop?
New research recently published by the British Retail Consortium and Google shows that online searches for retail products rose 29 per cent in the three months to March 2011, compared with the same period a year ago, making it the fastest growing retail category.
The increase is being considered partly down to the popularity of internet-enabled smartphones and tablet computers, making online shopping and price comparison easier and easier.
Specifically, this new report found that retail searched on mobile products, including internet enabled tablets , rose 181 per cent compared with last year. While this may indicate a change in shopping habits, the 2008 iPhone launch helped spur other manufacturers into producing mass market smartphones, meaning more people have access to this technology - they may have previously been doing the same thing on a desktop or laptop computer. But it seems the online revolution has not yet reached the North. More than half of the people searching for retail items online were from London or the South of England, although that may be because they have more cash to spend on retail luxuries. Allegedly.
The report does not delve into how many of these online searches are being converted into online sales, as internet sales have also been affected by the spending slowdown. Alternatively, consumers may just research online but prefer to hand over cool hard cash to a genuine person on the High Street. However, figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics show that online retail sales are continuing to grow as a percentage of retail sales, accounting for about 10 per cent of overall retail sales in March.
Although not conclusive, these figures do suggest that having an online presence has become crucial for British retailers, and if the trend does hold true, it could be the death knell for the humble corner shop.