As more Christmas shoppers choose to buy online, can the British high street survive?

YES
Rob Myers

Regardless of how the internet evolves, you can’t try on a pair of the latest shoes or feel the quality of a gift for a loved one. Our research has shown that, far from killing the high street, the internet is lending itself as a valuable tool in the retailer’s armoury. The high street needs to focus its attention on more than just purchase interaction – on a level playing field it will always lose out to the lower overheads and instant search functions of the internet. Instead, high street retailers must take ownership of the shopping process from research to receipt. Go to the Burberry store and you’ll see shop assistants walking around with an iPad under their arm. Click and collect purchases also take the pain out of posting and packaging, as a trip to the shops is far more fun than a queue in the post office. And developing an entertaining shopping experience is never more relevant than at this festive time.

Rob Myers is managing director at Ipsos Marketing.

NO
Claudio Alvarez

The shopping mania that takes over in the run-up to Christmas means consumers are conscious of two things: convenience and cost. E-commerce is naturally geared for this as it provides a quicker, easier and cheaper shopping experience than the high street. Its popularity was highlighted in last week’s Ofcom report, which showed that, over the past three years, e-commerce has grown at ten times the rate of sales on the high street. The rise of smartphones bodes particularly badly for high street shops, as consumers start using price comparison sites on their mobiles to search for products they see in store, before buying them on their mobiles or online. To this effect, it is expected that £3.5bn of holiday sales will be “influenced” by smartphones. These factors are difficult for the high street to replicate, and it needs to differentiate itself by providing a more festive in-store experience.

Claudio Alvarez is vice president of GP Bullhound.