Amazon is set to take 19.8% of the UK online retail market within the next five years, according to GlobalData research. The growth of online exemplified by Amazon is just one factor that has caused high street retailers such as New Look - whose founder Tom Singh this week said he was to retire after 50 years in the business – and John Lewis, which this week named Karen White as its new chairman and unveiled the use of virtual reality in its stores – to rethink what their stores are for and how they can work to balance consumers’ desire for online convenience with reasons to come in-store. New Look is one of many retailers that has found that it doesn’t need as many branches as it did before online gained the position it now has in retail.
Joules is one retailer that seems to have got the balance right - and, as it this week reported its end-of-year trading update it was worth noting that half of its retail sales were now online. The multichannel balance may be moving faster online than many expected.
The dominance of online is having a wider effect on the high street, which makes the new high streets report from the ONS an interesting read. It sees a decline in retail businesses and jobs balanced by a rise in residential housing and in restaurants. But perhaps we should see that less as a decline in retail but as a rebalancing that makes high streets more rounded and gives people more reasons to come to the high streets, not only to buy, but also to eat and to live.
Meanwhile, a Drapers study found that members of the fashion industry now believe that sustainability is fast becoming a must.
Today’s guest comment comes from Mike Austin of Fresh Relevance who considers who retailers can attract shoppers through in-store experiences.