E-tail: Big, getting bigger… but pureplay stores are BIGGEST says ONS


I read a few reports this morning claiming that UK shoppers are now buying more online than in-store. Now, I know that’s not true. But looking past the misleading headlines, there was some interesting info about how the internet has changed shopping in Britain.

For a start, online shopping is continuing to grow at a fast lick. But the biggest winners from this (apart perhaps from consumers) are those online-only – or purely – stores that have shaken up retail so much in the past decade.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 13p in every pound was spent online last year (up from 5p in 2008), which is pretty impressive. But while in 2010, 41% of that spend went to the pureplay sector, now it’s 49% so we’re just on the verge of more than half of all e-shopping in Britain being with pureplay stores. Wow.

web shoppingObviously, shoppers are now so used to Asos, Amazon, Nothonthehighstreet, Boohoo, Net-a-Porter and all those others that they no longer feel the need for a reassuringly familiar high street name to lure them in. Additionally, the range of goods available on those e-stores has expanded and improved.

But the ONS thinks that a combination of factors such as smartphones, electronic payments and shopping apps are also helping. It paints a picture of we shoppers touching, feeling, viewing and trying on our goods in a store (any store) and then buying them from, say, Asos before we’ve even exited the changing room.

Interestingly, the ONS also highlighted the big change that’s happened around the Christmas shopping season because of online. What used to be a must-buy-at-full-price season has become a discount bonanza as e-tailers offer Black Friday deals in November. We did 6% of our shopping online in 2008 and last year it was 16%, which is more than the average for the year as a whole and probably reflective of the major bargains available online during that month nowadays.

asos black friday 2Not that online has it all its own way. Let’s face it, close to 90% of all shopping still happens in stores and most of our grocery shopping is physical. Most of us like to touch and feel the actual chicken or actual pineapple we’re going to buy. And the complications of not being in when the van arrives or having to return foodstuffs to a supermarket add to the fondness for physical grocery shopping.

But sectors like clothing and department store goods are favourites for online shoppers, the ONS says, simply because delivery and returns are getting so much easier. Free delivery/returns, click & collect, drop-off points and more mean we’re all quite happy to buy dresses, shoes, cushions, and other goods online. And we’re likely to be even happier to do so in the future.

So, if you read a headline today telling us we’re all spending more online than in-store, don’t believe it. But do be prepared for a day when it might just be true.

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