Is online shopping killing retail stores? In Britain, before malls, we had The High Street. It was the centre of town, and it still exists in various degrees of shabbiness. The decline of the British High Street started in the 1990s, when Government bludgeoned small businesses with a tax called The Uniform Business Rate. Rates are a form of taxation collected to pay for local services, and they are levied separately from general taxation taken on labour and productivity. On top of already super-excessive rental costs, with “Zone A” prime retail space only affordable by dreary banks, boring multiples and too many estate agents, the blue-sky thinking of the out-of-touch civil servants ensured that any quirky and interesting individual retail start-up never got off the blocks.
The High Street Hits A Low
After we’d turned into the 2000s, it wasn’t immediately obvious how online shopping would further affect the British High Street. Early consumer habits included browsing and researching online, and maybe even ordering online, but visiting the store in person to collect. Then, even before the global financial downturn sucker-punched the consumer sector in 2008, the great monoliths such as Amazon, EBay, and Apple iStore were winning the war for possession of the wallet. These days, exorbitant town car-parking charges together with the convenience of “one-click” transactions, means shoppers don’t even have to venture out of doors. Many retail units are occupied by “charity shops” or “pound stores”, both business models equally depressing. Retailers are forced to find other ways to attract visitors to their premises. Some are succeeding. Bijoux concepts such as the books-and-chocolates model, seem to be bucking the downward trend and offering an alternative proposition to the ubiquitous eBook.
Cart Or Carrier Bag
The Riverchase Galleria, Hoover, Alabama, is probably the USA’s largest shopping mall. You could spend a week there and not discover all of it. Mall shopping in The States offers a contrast of environment and entertainment factors with which online shopping cannot compete. In 2013, 70% of Americans were “showrooming” (researching purchases online) before ordering. Around one third are schlepping to bricks-and-mortar to make their purchase, especially if internet speeds are slow, but the trend towards buying online is inexorable, as in Britain. Unfortunately in Britain there is not the space to build a mall experience on such a lavish scale as the Riverchase, although we do have flagship developments such as Lakeside, in Essex.
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Fiona Faith Ross lives in South Devon, UK. She’s an English teacher from a family of English teachers. She writes science fiction, with a focus on the interaction between humans and technology. Her debut novel for YA, Far Out, is published on Kindle. Her interests include web technologies, literature, painting and writing. On the web she writes for the legal, business and consumer sectors.