Is the internet killing the high street?

With some well-known retailers going into administration, the government has decided to look closer at the reasons behind this downfall.

Retail guru Mary Portas was asked to go around the country in order to speak to the shoppers and the retailers and come up with potential answers as well as solutions to this problem. Last month, we finally got to see the results of her “investigation”.

Unsurprisingly, one of the reasons cited to have contributed to the decline of the high street is the booming online retail sector. A large number of consumers have realised that they do not need to make their way to local or out-of-town shops to make purchases. Instead, they can just order what they want from their office or homes and have it delivered to their door.

Portas also mentions a few other significant factors which push consumers to using online stores:

Firstly, parking in most town centres is very expensive and often it is almost impossible to find a space. Consumers are therefore forced to use public transport to make their way there, which is not very convenient when they plan to make a large shop. This is where internet shops can often come to their rescue.

Secondly, the feeling of community, which Portas says has been taken away from our town centres, is growing very fast online. Through social networks and consumer forums, shoppers can now recommend or warn others about different online retailers. They can also exchange information and reviews of individual items or groups of products. The internet has become a place where we not only make purchases, but also look for information and advice on what to buy.

The high rents which retailers need to pay for their stores also mean that their online competitors can often sell the same products for less. No wonder then, that Mary Portas has asked for those to be lowered.

It seems that the internet has given many consumers a choice of changing the way they shop and many have decided to use it. Town centres can compete with this new competition, but they will need to adapt quickly before it is too late.

Eva Grzybek works for PayPoint.net Merchant Services.

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