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What Online Retail Means for Shopping Malls

For most of us, online shopping has already changed our shopping habits. This is beginning to have a serious effect on shopping malls. Will this new shopping ‘experience’ threaten more traditional retail outlets such as shopping malls? The latest retail statistics from the US and Europe certainly point in that direction.

Andrew Busby, Retail Analyst, Writer & Speaker and Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections.Org shares his expert opinion.

Andrew sees people’s shopping habits changing: “what we are seeing, is, on the one hand, a revolution going on within retail, because of technology, but also an evolution. We are witnessing a sort of retail Darwinism on the High Street.” As Andrew points out, however, online spending still only accounts for a little over 15% of the total spent in retail in the UK, which many experts say is the most mature retail market in the world in terms of online sales.

He says that it is very difficult to predict what will happen in retail beyond a couple of years. “We can only try and predict the trends [but not the details]”, however, he feels that the growth of online retail will stop growing as rapidly as before when shopping malls themselves change and adopt more and more new technology. “In the eyes of the consumer, online and traditional shopping malls will become one. People will see one brand and they will want to have a consistent shopping experience whether they shop online or go into a store.”

When shopping malls appeared, it led to the demise of the small shops, and this led to social change as the heart of many small towns and villages was the small shops. Now that shopping centers are in decline, Andrew says that this may lead to a reversal of this trend, and a rebirth of independent retailers. People, it seems, seek something more personal when shopping. The problem is, as Andrew points out, is that we have got used to being able to get very good quality and very cheap food and clothing in malls. Smaller independent retailers may not be able to match this, and the premium that shoppers will have to pay to get a more personal experience may be too high. It also means that the older more traditional retail outlets will have to rethink their business models.

Andrew says that because of the growth of online and mobile shopping, we are seeing a natural culling process taking place with many retailers, some of them quite large, going bust. “We will soon get to a stage where the number of physical stores will get to an optimum number.”

It seems that we are not seeing the end of malls but an evolution and adaption of a more personalized service, thanks to the growth of online retail. And this is a good thing for us consumers.

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