Is online retail the only retail?

With online shopping continuing to increase in popularity, CityX spoke to local businesses about how e-commerce is affecting in-store sales.

Nationally, it is becoming a common occurrence for businesses to notice a remarked increase in online sales, with big names announcing in-store struggles.

But what affect is it having on independent retailers?

A national picture

National fashion retailer Next, announced earlier this month an 8% fall in sales at stores in the third quarter, while online sales rose by 12.7%.

Photo: Jacob White for CityX

Big names such as Toys R Us, House of Fraser and BHS have been forced into administration in recent years, suggesting that online retail reduced much-needed footfall.

Other big names such as Debenhams and New Look have also announced plans to close a number of stores across the country whilst online sales flourish.

Changing to create experiences online retail cannot offer

The Beehive, based at St Martin’s Lane, has seen dramatic changes in independent businesses over the years, as online popularity has grown.

As a result, as of Saturday, December 1, The Beehive will no longer be a gift shop, and instead will become a creative space, offering workshops and customer experiences – making it a unique offering that cannot be generated online.

Photo by Jemima Sullivan for CityX.

Joanna Townell told CityX: “Online retail has had a massive affect on small independent businesses.

“With today’s busy life it’s very convenient to order online, most likely getting free shipping and not having to come into town and park up.

“Obviously it’s not the same experience of seeing what you are buying but yes it has a massive affect. So much so, I am currently having to think of changing my business to survive.

“We won’t be selling online, as it is very difficult to build a website.

“Even online is difficult for small businesses which is a shame as we seem to struggle online and on the high street.”

No pressure from online

However, local business WithLoveFromLincolnshire, which began online and then opened a physical store just over five years ago selling handmade gifts and crafts, is thriving in store.

Pirjo Holtta, owner of the business, rents out space for around 80 local artists who stock in her shop and uses social media to promote her shop.

Despite occasionally using Etsy to sell items, Pirjo has said that due to the good footfall and sales in-store, she chooses not to list all her items online.

She said: “Last month alone we sold well over 800 items and took over £5,000.

“Customers comment how reasonable our prices are compared to online.”

“My shop is quite different and I don’t feel that pressure [from online competition].”

Providing an experience in-store

Some local businesses have noticed in-store sales are more successful, despite also offering an online platform.

One company, which believes physical sales are down to the customer experience, is Top to Bottom Accessories on Steep Hill, which says customers prefer to go in and browse than look online.

Photo by Jemima Sullivan for CityX.

A spokesperson said: “We feel it’s important to have an online store, to provide for customers who aren’t local and those who prefer shopping online, but it’s our shop that brings more business as lots of people like the shopping experience that we offer.”