We’ve all become time-deprived bargain hunters, and it’s hurting the retailers

Joumanna Bercetche
High Streets Prepare For Last Minute Surge Of Christmas Shoppers
Source: Getty

I read a staggering statistic over the weekend: in the US it is estimated that out of every $1 spent online shopping, 43 cents is spent on Amazon.

No wonder the wealth of its chief executive Jeff Bezos has skyrocketed to more than $100bn.

This got me thinking about my own spending habits through the eyes of a consumer.

It dawned on me that, with my own online shopping, it is true that almost half of everything I have bought online has been on Amazon — be it last-minute gifts, household appliances, pantry staples, Amazon Kindle books, and gadgets I clearly don’t need.

I have been known to buy “topper uppers” to get to the £20 minimum Amazon requires for free delivery (the low being a heart-shaped egg mold because everyone needs one of those).

We read so much about the death of the high street, but we are invariably all playing a part by having become time-deprived bargain hunters.

Online shopping is often cheaper and most definitely faster than bricks-and-mortar. Many e-commerce stores now offer free delivery and returns as sweeteners.

Even if you do have to return an item, the inconvenience of posting it back at the post office against going back to an actual store is minimal.

It is no wonder that retail employment at British shops fell by 62,000 last year due to “digital disruption”, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

As consumers, we are also instilled with a deflationary mindset. Why buy today when it will be in a sale in a few weeks?

But you can also hunt for the cheapest deal with a few clicks on your computer, and it’s much more efficient shopping from the ease of your sofa than venturing out into the frenzied world of the high street.

To illustrate consumers’ growing preference for online, let me share another statistic: online retailer ASOS has now surpassed British iconic brand Marks & Spencer in market capitalisation.

Last week, ASOS shares grew to a total market value of £4.8bn.

Now here’s the kicker: ASOS’s annual revenue is about a fifth of M&S’s. A similar phenomenon is occurring with food stores.

Perhaps the best manifestation of consumer and retailer trends occurs during the current holiday period, as the UK seems to have fully embraced the American shopping extravaganza of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday has become a huge event in the UK, and this year was no exception. Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all debit and credit card transactions in the UK, estimated that this Black Friday spending ended the day up eight per cent compared to last year.

But perhaps the days when shopping was the focal point of high street spending are numbered. Shopping, it seems, is becoming secondary to simply having a fun day out.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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