Internet Shopping – Can the High Street Compete?

Helen Cox weighs up the future of our High Streets.

It is a sad fact of the recent economic climate that many high street stores have been forced to close down – they are just not making a profit and are unable to remain open. This is in some way due to the dire economic situation we face but also may be down to the rise in Internet shopping. Currently, retail shopping is falling by around 0.8% per month – that may not seem like a lot, but in reality it amounts to millions of pounds of reduced revenue for the high street. Alongside this, Internet shopping is growing, with around 17% of purchases made on the web. So what is it that is causing people to abandon the high street in favour of its online counterpart?

One of the main reasons may be that, quite simply, it is easier to shop online. All you need to do to obtain your heart’s desire is turn on your laptop and do a bit of typing, and hey presto, it is with you in 2 – 5 working days. You can also scour the web in seconds to find exactly what you want and compare prices on a number of items – on the high street this would be very time consuming and potentially exhausting. It is also highly likely that you will be able to find exactly what you need online due to the massive warehouse space and amount of sellers – on the high street you are restricted to whatever shop floor space is available. Some browsers even come with a compare widget so that you can compare items on websites at the click of a button.[pullquote] Another joy of Internet shopping is buying internation products that are not available in the UK.[/pullquote]

But then again, the upside of the high street is that you can take your time to browse and try things on, whilst having a laugh with your friends. Many people love shopping purely for the social side – you can’t meet up with the girls, have a latte and chat about your purchases over the Internet can you? Also, there is the frustration of having to return an item if it is for example, the wrong size. This usually involves a trip to town anyway to post it back to the company – so why could you not just use that trip to town to go shopping in the first place?  As you might have picked up on, that is a current sore point with me – having found a beautiful dress online, I ordered it only to find that when it arrived the sizing was completely off. I now have to go into town anyway to send it back.

Another joy of Internet shopping however, is buying international products that are not available in the UK, whether it is sweets or gadgets that have not yet been released here. It is also a chance to play around with the exchange rates – if you find an item you love from a country where the currency is not doing so well, you will be able to get it for a lot cheaper than you would have in the UK, and, being a student, the wait for international shipping is usually worth it if you are saving a tenner or so.

Possibly the most appealing part of Internet shopping is the fact that you can save a lot of money! There always seems to be sales on and discount codes available that make items really cheap – a lot cheaper than the high street. Another upside is that these sales are on all of the time, whereas you have to wait for the end of the season to take advantage of high street bargains. Things are generally cheaper on the Internet anyway – if you compare the prices between say Amazon and a HMV store, you will wonder why you ever considered saving up and going into town for that box set, when it was half the price online.

One downside of Internet shopping however is the delivery times! Unfortunately, unlike high street shopping, you have to wait days on end for the post to arrive, and, if you are in halls, you will know that these parcels don’t always make it to you! Another downside for me is the sometimes extortionate postage fees – no, I don’t want to pay £5 postage for a £3 item thank you very much.!

I have to admit, I love Internet shopping. I order all of my textbooks online, I buy clothes online, I have my food shop delivered, and I even have a Graze box popped in the post to me every week. That is in some part due to the fact that I am quite lazy, but mainly it is down to the money that I can save by doing this – as we all know, when you’re a student, every penny really does count.[pullquote]If you’re in halls, you will know that these parcels don’t always make it to you![/pullquote]

That being said, I do love shopping on the high street – the post-Christmas sales are the best time of the year – I stock up on presents for people for the coming months at ridiculously low prices.  I also think that the high street should be protected as it is too valuable to lose – not only will people lose that social outlet but it is also vital to the UK economy – the high street used to be the heart of the British town and it is a massive shame that we are losing that.

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