We do love a spot of online shopping. Could it be lazily browsing comparison sites over a Prosecco as the rain lashes the distant high street? Not having to respond ‘Just looking, thanks’ to spotty school-leavers every ten seconds? Or maybe the excitement of meeting the neighbours when you collect your parcel? It’s giddy stuff.
And it seems that shoppers are increasingly happy to spend money online with businesses that you can’t physically touch. Luckily, the products are a little more tangible.
According to the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics, stores that don’t exist on the high street or in out-of-town retail parks took nearly 50p in every £1 spent online last year.
That compares to 2010, when only 41p of every online £1 was spent in online-only places like Asos and Amazon.
Of course, back in 2000, when the world was new, we were all warned against shopping anywhere online that didn’t have a bricks-and-mortar equivalent. But back then, you could get botulism from going to your local swimming baths. Things move on.
But what about those thorny problems of buying online, like that top that looked boho online, but more hobo IRL? Retail experts say they’ve been solved by buyers taking their smartphones into shops, then finding a better deal online. Sorry, retailers.
And now it seems that another shutter has crashed down on the windows of the high street. For the first time in the history of the world, consumers say they buy more on the web than in stores.
This nugget comes from an annual survey of over 5,000 online shoppers by United Parcel Service Inc. They say shoppers now make 51pc of their purchases online, compared with 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.
Despite all this, the data also shows that 88% of all British shopping is still done in physical stores, which suggests that we’re not quite ready to permanently retreat to the back bedroom and lose our last remaining social skill.
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers no longer consider bricks and mortar and online as two separate channels – they must offer both – but the economics of physical retail must add up. Retailers’ continuous reviews of costs of operating have and will continue to impact on where businesses choose to invest and employ local people”.