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News - 20 May 2005
It was easier before broadband

Bad news and more bad news for retailers

Contrary to expectations retail sales increased by 0.5% in April. Unfortunately for bricks and mortar outlets the increase was driven almost entirely by sales on the internet with 22m customers spending £1.37m online.

Internet sales bounced back by well over 7% in April while general retail sales growth has slowed dramatically from the 6% rate in 2004 to 2.3% this year. But if food sales are stripped out of the equation the picture is rather bleaker. Non food sales last year grew by 9% but in 2005 up to mid April they languished at 0.8%

The 2.3% growth figure is more or less the trend rate of the economy as a whole but analysts expect this to decline to a below-trend figure of less than 2% by the end of the year.

ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT

It is becoming increasingly obvious that traditional high street retail is going to remain a tough business to be in for the next year and the situation is being exacerbated by the consumers growing affection for the internet. The Chief Executive of the Interactive Media Retail Group (IMRG) stated: - “It is becoming increasingly obvious that consumers are migrating to online stores”

Having an online presence as well as a traditional high street outlet is not an antidote to falling sales but it does offer another source of turnover in a tough market. But even those retailers that have a web presence have to think carefully about its value if it is just a static page that lets customers know the location of their shops and little else. A site that allows customers to buy online is rapidly becoming the minimum requirement for any retail web presence and quite simply, if a retailer can’t offer that service, their customers will go somewhere else that does.

The Economic Partnership (BHEP) is working with City College to stage an event in late summer to demonstrate the advantages of online selling to independent retailers in the city. For more details contact Soozie Campbell on 01273 380040 or scampbell@brightonbusiness.co.uk


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