Bricks-and-mortar stores key for online sales

Retailers that embrace the omnichannel shopping experience are seeing a boost in sales from the internet, according to new figures.

The True Value of Stores report by Verdict and British Land revealed that 89 per cent (£278 billion) of all UK retail sales in 2015 touched a store, through physical sales, click & collect and online sales browsed in store.

This amounted to a five per cent boost to sales, increasing to nine per cent when food & grocery is excluded.

Verdict predicts that click & collect spend will double by 2021, in turn driving growth in the True Value of Stores.

The report suggests that bricks-and-mortar stores help improve brand awareness, customer service and trust, with two-thirds of these retailers contributing to the £34bn of online sales. The remainder is purchased through pure-play retailers, who invest solely online.

The research also found that more than half (53 per cent) of online retail sales have directly touched a store.

Charles Maudsley, head of retail for British Land, said: “This research demonstrates the continued value of the physical store and the important role it plays in the lives of consumers.

“It builds on our knowledge of why people shop, to better understand how they shop across channels. We see retailers responding to this through their flagship and local stores.

“Leading retailers and landlords need to continue to embrace omnichannel to future-proof physical stores and meet the needs of consumers today and tomorrow.”

This is particularly true for electrical online sales, with two-thirds (65 per cent) of sales relying heavily on a store to occur. Almost half (49 per cent) of all electrical purchases are made in a physical store.

Electricals also experienced the biggest boost at 32 per cent, followed by sports & toys (25 per cent) and department stores (20 per cent).

However, the home sectors – homewares, furniture & floorcoverings, DIY & gardening – have a low boost, mostly due to limited online saturation. In this sector, consumers prefer to see and feel products before making a purchase, particularly for more expensive items where delivery can be costly and returns not permitted.

Patrick O’Brien, content director for Verdict Retail, commented: “Electricals is one of the most mature online markets, with customers using a variety of channels in their shopper journey. The prevalence of showrooming is resulting in a number of retailers repurposing their physical stores, utilising them to display products and promote online sales rather than just to fulfil immediate sales. We expect this trend to grow as stores continue to migrate to the showcase model.”