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Online will be key to out-of-town success

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Online retail services will be a key factor in helping out-of-town stores to thrive in the years to come, according to Verdict.

The retail analyst says that after being badly hit by the recession, out-of-town shops will start to do better as the crowds start to return, spending an extra £14.7bn in such locations over the next four years.

It has found that spending growth in out-of-town retail parks fell to 1.7% in 2009 from 3% in 2008. Verdict forecasts a 2.9% growth this year, and by 3% in 2011.

And online services such as ‘click and collect’ will give a boost to retailers in out-of-town parks because they are easier for them to offer. As consumers use the internet to compare and research prices, this will help to drive sales, says the Verdict report.

Matt Piner, analyst at Verdict, said out-of-town sales were improving partly because supermarkets were expanding in order to offer more non-food products. “As supermarkets at out-of-town retailer parks get bigger, consumers are more often tempted to visit them due to greater convenience and choice of products. Therefore there are greater opportunities to increase sales in neighbouring shops.”

But, he warned, it was no longer enough for those trading in such locations to compete purely on price. The recession meant that consumers were no longer buying things simply because they wanted them – but because they needed them. “Out-of-town retailers will need to put greater effort into customer service and the shopping experience as well as variety and quality of products,” he said.

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