In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting on the balance between online and high street retail, as a Parliamentary committee report calls for some form of tax on online retailers. The money raised, argues the Town Centres and High Streets in 2030 report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG), could be ploughed into cutting business rates for those selling in the high street and investing in their stores. The BRC says taxing online retailers is not the answer, since it would catch multichannel retailers, but agrees that business rates must be reformed.
We think that taxing online sales to help high street retailers could serve to reinforce the often-cited idea that online and in-store retailers must battle it out for sales. But the multichannel strategy favoured by many successful retailers is all about enabling shoppers to buy in the place that best suits them – giving a choice between visiting the store or buying online for convenience.
Where the HCLG report does get it right is in the idea that bricks and mortar retailers will benefit if they invest in their stores and offer services that appeal to shopper demand both for experiences and for convenience.
That’s something that shopping centre operator Intu refers to in its full-year figures, out this week. It argues that well-run stores are a vital part of multichannel retailing. Well-run online retail services, by implication, are the other vital part of that equation.
But neither online nor in-store retail are hugely buoyant just now. Today’s IMRG figures show ecommerce growth was relatively weak in January. It’s an understatement to say that’s not likely to improve if there’s a no deal Brexit, as warned by retail bodies from the UK and Ireland this week.
Today we also report on Laura Ashley’s latest figures, which show the retailer focusing more on digital and on Asia for its future growth, and as the merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s is thrown into doubt by competition authorities.
Today’s guest comment comes from Patrick Buellet of Symphony Retail who considers retailers can use AI and data to adapt to changing weather conditions.