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Research Finds 89% of All UK Retail Sales Touch Brick-and-Mortar Stores

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Britain’s Asos is one of the biggest apparel e-tailers in the word, but e-commerce has yet to fully sink its teeth into U.K. consumers.

Research released Monday found that 89 percent of all U.K. retail sales in 2015, valued at 278 billion pounds (or $366.6 billion), “touched” a physical store. The survey of 30,000 shoppers—conducted by retail research agency Verdict and real-estate company British Land between March 2015 and March 2016—also found that brick-and-mortar stores accounted for two-thirds of online sales, with the remainder purchased via pure-play e-tailers.

According to the results, published in a report titled “True Value of Stores,” shoppers that visited a store to collect an online order or to browse before buying boosted physical retail sales by 5 percent on average. In the clothing and footwear category alone, this behavior boosted in-store sales by 12 percent.

Notably, women used click-and-collect services more than men and engaged more with stores overall during their path to purchase. For men, store browsing is twice as important as click-and-collect, but they use online pure-plays more than women, primarily Amazon.

The survey also found that Londoners were more likely to hit a store when they shopped compared with the rest of the U.K. Somewhat surprisingly, however, people ages 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 used physical stores more than older age groups. This finding suggests that the role of brick-and-mortar retail as a recreational and social activity will prosper.

“The ‘True Value of Stores’ research reveals a number of thought-provoking insights, such as the importance of stores for under 35s, and the varied role of the store across sectors,” Ben Dimson, head of retail business development for British Land, said. “We expect to see continued demand for physical stores from a variety of operators and this research helps to cement their place within retailers’ plans in an omnichannel age. Even online pure-plays are dipping their toe into the world of physical, taking pop-up space or temporary units. In doing so, they benefit from the ‘halo effect’ that stores offer—generating online sales and strengthening customer relationships.”

Looking ahead, the report said physical stores are still “very much at the heart of shopping” in the U.K. and the use of click-and-collect will double by 2021 as channels become increasingly intertwined. To that end, the “true value” of stores is projected to grow by 16 percent within five years—faster than physical stores alone at 11 percent. This boost will grow fastest for stores selling clothing, footwear, sporting goods and toys.

At the same time, the store “halo effect” is expected to grow as store portfolios continue to positively influence online sales not browsed in store.

Patrick O’Brien, content director for Verdict Retail, noted, “The prevalence of showrooming is resulting in a number of retailers repurposing their physical stores, utilizing them to display products and promote online sales rather than just to fulfill immediate sales. We expect this trend to grow as stores continue to migrate to the showcase model.”

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