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Is online fuelling 'Generation Frivolous'?

What’s in a click? Or a swipe and buy? Well, a lot when you consider the effects on your bank account, but what’s interesting to explore is whether the perception that online shopping is most often cheaper and quicker is accurate? And, if not, then where does that leave the high street?

Last month, we commissioned a study - Click and Regret – that explored UK adult shopper attitudes to online shopping, and the results were fascinating. There’s something about popping goods in an online basket that feels intangible. It’s as if the money you’re spending when you ‘click to buy’ doesn’t belong to you, a very different emotional connection compared to the physical action of handing over your cash, credit, or debit card while you’re in a shop. 

So, are we fueling Generation Frivolous?  Our research seems to support that hypothesis.

A staggering £641m is being wasted every year by UK adults not returning unwanted goods bought online and nearly half of UK adults said the ease of shopping online fuels extensive shopping habits.

Coupled with this, nearly a third of UK shoppers confessed to being lured into buying items online they don’t want or need and 70% regularly regret buying things online so send them back. 

Counter intuitive

Over 40% said they also spend more money online than they originally intended with 38% stating it’s because they often buy goods they didn’t expect.  Interestingly, the study also found that although internet shopping is meant to be time efficient, 65% said they spent more time shopping online than they expected because there’s too much choice 69%, they want to hunt for the best prices 54% and they feel compelled to shop around 34%. 

While online shopping is growing every year, it’s not the utopian solution that’s constantly banded around especially when 82% of people still shop in physical shops. It was recently reported in The Times that Amazon is secretly building a team of British property experts amid speculation that it will expand its physical presence.

The Amazon Go proposition and Whole Foods division are examples of physical retail as part of the Amazon commercial strategy. They evidently believe in the longevity of brick and mortar, so why don’t we or our Government?  Simultaneously, it was reported that struggling retailers were facing a further £115 million hit to their cashflows because the much-maligned business rates process is delaying overdue refunds. Again, more of a hindrance to retail than a help. 

High street solutions

Last week the British Retail Consortium announced statistics that showed 85,000 retail jobs had been lost in the last year alone, and called for a change to business rates.  While I'm in agreement with the BRC on the reduction of business rates, this does not go far enough. The government must now step in to impose immediate changes such as rent controls on landlords and also taxes imposed on online retail transactions.

The high street plays an important role in society, with 70% of shoppers being concerned about the impact online shopping will continue to have on the local economy and community.

I don’t think any of us can imagine a world where the high street doesn’t exist and your first solo shopping trip as a teen never happens (even if it were just to hang around outside McDonalds). We all know that less high street means less community spirit, and the only way we will change this is if the Government do more to encourage business to invest. However, they don’t currently appear to be backing this horse with any conviction.

But is this a gamble that’s going to backfire when we see an erosion of our culture and communities and the knock-on effect this will have on other government funded services like healthcare, old people’s homes and mental health? 

But let’s remember, we can all do our bit to help.  Just get out and shop more and you may find it’s kinder on your pocket and better for society and the community.

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