High street losing £18bn in sales each year to online shopping

More people prefer to browse in stores but buy online. Photo: Freestocks.org/Unsplash

High street stores are losing out more than £18bn in sales each year as consumers find products in-store, before leaving and purchasing online, according to a survey.

Job board RetailChoice said their survey of 2,000 Britons shows three-quarters (74%) use retail stores to browse product but shop online.

While one-third (32%) of Brits are “show-rooming” once a month, 12% are doing so once a week. The average shopper spent £467 through “show-rooming” in the last year, with over half (53%) saying they enjoy browsing products in-store.

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Unsurprisingly, purchasing behaviours change between products as consumers feel the need to go in-store for furniture (41%), scented products (40%) and jewellery (39%), whereas electronics (38%) and home appliances (32%) are usually bought online.

In order to best address and serve these inter-changing behaviours, “retailers need to understand how to maximise and utilise staff, in-store experiences and initiatives to generate and maximise sales”, the research indicates.

Despite the top ask from consumers to retail staff being for them not to be pushy (48%), consumers not only value retail staff but want more from them. Consumers value face-to-face interactions with store staff, with over half of Brits (57%) more likely to spend money in a store if staff are friendly and approachable.

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However, shoppers would also like retail staff to have knowledge of the products available (42%) and a willingness to listen (28%).

Oliver Wren at RetailChoice said: “The Christmas period is arguably the most important time of the year for UK retailers, so it’s essential that stores are able to convert as many browsing customers into happy purchasers as possible.

“Despite everything we hear about the ‘death of the high street’, bricks and mortar stores have a winning card to play – their workforces – who are championed by British consumers.

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“What’s more, 51% of shoppers are more likely to spend in-store if staff are passionate and knowledgeable. Making sure that staff are well trained and confident in talking to customers about the products available to purchase in store will help bricks and mortar stores to better meet the demands of shoppers who may well be inundated with the number of products now available in-store and online.”

Considering the retail experience more widely, one in four (26%) Brits argued experiential offerings, such as coffee shops, events or try-before-you-buy opportunities, encourage them to shop in-store.

Meanwhile, over two-fifths (47%) of shoppers are more likely to go in store if the window display is appealing.

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Looking ahead to the upcoming Christmas period, another related survey revealed over half of Brits (55%) are planning to buy the majority of their gifts this year online.

Shoppers said online shopping offers better convenience (58%), the option to have shopping delivered (46%) and better deals (44%).

Despite this, e-commerce brands, such as Boohoo and Wayfair, have recently announced they will launch high street pop-up shops during the festive season.

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These brands stand to benefit as two-fifths of shoppers (40%) will still hit the high street for most of their Christmas gifts. 

Men also report spending more than women do, to the value of £594.10 in the last year, compared with £332.90 spent by women.

Interestingly, men are less likely to be popping down to pop-up stores – 46% of men state they would visit on these stores, compared with 60% of women.