Shoppers are ready to hit the high-street
Defying earlier predictions of anticipating the decline of retail stores due to the surge in online shopping prompted by COVID-19, it appears shoppers are keen to get back on the high streets. Perhaps people have been missing the sense of community and in-store experience. While online shopping might be more convenient, there is certainly some doubt about whether it remains the preferred choice for consumers.
According to Statista, in 2022 14.5% of total retail sales were e-commerce. More specifically, looking at the fashion house Joseph, CEO Barbara Campos states that in 2019 the brand’s online trade “represented almost 70% of our total sales. This trend has now been reversed to 30%”. Also stating that they have had to close down 12 of their stores from 2019-2023.
Instore shopping creates a sense of instant gratification and creates the opportunity for time to socialise compared to online being a more solitary activity. The resilience and adaptability demonstrated by retail stores are a perfect example of the fashion industry’s evolving nature, offering a glimmer of hope to retail store owners in a time of economic uncertainty when prediction has not always been on their side.
Brands are re-evaluating their strategies: for many, the focus is returning to the physical store. The change not being merely a nod to nostalgia, but a strategic move based on tangible benefits that stores offer, often overlooked by digital platforms.
Canada Goose is another brand embracing the advantage of in-store shopping. Having recently opened its twelfth and thirteenth stores in the USA, the outerwear brand plans to hit 65 stores globally early next year, recognising the importance and customer drive for the in-store experience.
Above image by Rawpixel, courtesy of Free Range Images
This shift from online to offline can also be seen in smaller independent stores. Wonderlust, an independent boutique with three stores in southwest London has chosen to “suspend” its online store. Owner Sarah Milmead says, “mounting factors have resulted in this decision”.
Wonderlust put a post up on its Instagram saying, “It’s with a heavy heart I have chosen to suspend our online store,” as a result of not getting enough business from their online website. Milmead carried on to say “solely based on our online business, I would assume that maybe there isn’t a demand for what we offer.” However, her in-store success has led her to shift all focus in-store where she sees her time spent as more beneficial for her business.
Milmead says online retail is not currently part of the strategy: “It’s not something I would never consider but the nature of our store and the sense of community we have built through the store and meeting our customers isn’t something I think online shopping benefits much.”
So, perhaps surprisingly, while we may live in the new digital world, the tangible experience of in-store retail is not something shoppers are willing to give up for a few taps on their phone just yet.