I paid a visit to a local retail park at the weekend and was extremely frustrated to find that so many other people had decided to do the same thing that the car park was grid locked. Getting a space was a major triumph, getting out again was a serious drama. I was only there because my partner needed to pick up a car part at Halfords and I had thought I might take a wander around TK Maxx whilst he made his purchase. Never again!
Shopping for Electrical Goods
I was most fascinated to see the number of people who were heading towards Curry’s. I personally can’t imagine a worse way to spend my weekend than examining a selection of fridge freezers. Especially as there would be a strong likelihood that my chosen model wouldn’t be in stock and so I couldn’t have it anyway. I buy almost everything online because it lets me out of the open warfare in car parks, I can see if the item I want is in stock and I can generally have it delivered quickly. I have found that the greatest benefit of the internet to my life has been the precious time it has gifted me.
Witness my new washing machine. Rather than do battle at the retail park which I had neither the time nor the inclination to do, I made my purchase online and the machine was delivered the next morning which was, incidentally, a Sunday. I wouldn’t want to waste even a nano second of my life looking at washing machines and so I am a little confused. Online sales still only account for around 15% of all retail sales in the UK. I would have thought that by now that percentage would have been much higher. In my household it is nearer 90%.
The Shopping Experience
Perhaps some people just like wandering around the shops although my recent experience of high streets and malls is that most of the consumers are to be found in the coffee shops! Online sales are growing, though, and so it is a near certainty that retailers who do not embrace new technology will be left behind. The online experience is being developed rapidly with new payment methods, better delivery services, click and collect, virtual changing rooms and the availability of more information like the suggestion of complementary products. Forward thinking retailers are also ensuring a more integrated service fusing online and in store experiences.
I can sympathise with independent retailers who must find it hard to keep pace with developments and to finance the investment required in new technology. Many will be left behind as the big guys introduce progressively more sophisticated systems. There are ways to join in the IT revolution though. The right EPoS systems and software enable independents to trade both in store and online and the better systems also enable their products to be showcased on eBay and Amazon whose sites will be updated with the technological developments. Perhaps the way forward is for small retailers to work in partnership with larger organisations or at least to join forces with other independents.
It would be a shame to lose our independents as many are niche retailers who cater to our hobbies and interests rather to our causal wardrobes. Equestrian specialists, snow sports retailers and the like are not on every high street and many of the products they sell are not on offer through the retail giants. We need them but they must remain visible online and offer a service commensurate with the modern world or consumers could turn their backs on them in favour of a better shopping experience and greater convenience.
Article by Sally Stacey