Monday 18 April 2011 7:40 pm

Online retail sucks life out of high street

ONLINE retail is growing six times faster than high street sales and is forecast to hit £37bn a year by 2014, according to a retail survey. The rapid expansion is hitting high street retailers who are struggling to remain competitive with 40,000 shops closing over the past decade. Smartphones are fuelling the rapid online sales growth as customers place orders on-the-go. The Webloyalty Online Retail Report by Verdict Research predicts that current internet spending will grow by £14bn from 2010 to 2014. Many more familiar brands will disappear from town centres as a growing number of retailers close shops and trade solely on websites, according to the research. Chains including Woolworths, Etam, Littlewood and Zavvi (all pictured right) have already moved online after their stores were closed following plummeting sales and expensive overheads. Just over half of UK consumers currently use their mobiles during the purchasing process, but in the next five years this is expected to hit 80 per cent, according to the research. Neil Saunders, an analyst at Verdict said: “Shoppers after a better deal will use their mobile to compare and find prices. “Retailers that survive on the high street will be those that combine their online stores with mobile apps that offer shoppers a better deal using location-based offers.” Almost half of all Brits own a smartphone – which will be how shoppers locate and compare the best prices in the very near future, he said. This move away from the high street is also reflected by the continued growth of out-of-town shopping centres. Out of town retail space grew 34 per cent from 2000 to 2009, while high street space shrank by 8.9 per cent, the research found. The move was triggered by the soaring costs of rents and rates, according to the report.