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Online tops retailer investment priority list

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Online is a top priority for retailer investment in coming years. That’s the finding of a new report from TLT. Going for growth: strategies for retail success in 2014, researched for the law firm by Conlumino, questioned 60 of the UK’s leading retailers and found that 90.9% of the retailers who took part in its research put web and mobile sites top of their investment priority list for the coming year.

That was followed by opening new stores, important for 72.7% of retailers, while the same percentage cited the importance of refurbishing existing stores, investing in IT systems and marketing.

But despite the importance of investing online, stores remained the favoured channel for many respondents: if asked to choose between the two only 25% said they would trade solely through a website.

Perran Jervis, head of retail at TLT said: “Retailers clearly still see the benefits of a physical presence. But our work for retailers tells us that the store’s role is changing. With savvy customers now using various channels simultaneously to research and buy, retailers have to respond. For many, the response has been to invest in stores as well as technologies that link on and offline.

“Stores are no longer just places to browse and buy, but an increasingly critical link in the retail chain. We are seeing even pure-play e-tailers setting up shop on the high street to meet consumer needs.

“Stores help build brands that drive online growth. They are the billboards that advertise to passers-by and, with the growth of click and collect, they help complete the sale. They are also important for retailers looking to expand internationally. The brand power of a London store can help to drive growth in Asian markets. It’s not surprising that a physical high street presence is now back on the agenda – it’s an integral part of omnichannel retailing.

“As predictions that TV would be the death of radio proved wrong so, it seems, are the doomsday scenarios for the high street. Its surprising saviour is the online world it has traditionally been pitched against.”

Some 73.7% of respondents said they were already trading abroad. Currently, 63.2% said they traded overseas online, compared to 36.8% who had shops. while 78.9% thought that in five years time the internet would be far more important to international growth than having overseas stores. International stores were cited by 26.3% as liable to be important in five years time.

Meanwhile, mobile payments were viewed by half as offering the best prospects for growth while three quarters are looking to use them in the future. iPads in-store and apps for customers were high on the agenda for roughly half of retailers.

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