The ongoing battle for the high street took a turn for the worse in 2020. Retail shops across the nation struggled to remain open. Meanwhile online sales have soared. The future of our shopping experience is in the balance.
Thanks to ongoing restrictions and lockdowns and an increase in online shopping the question arises. Which makes more sense in 2021, a retail shop or a virtual store?
Let’s compare the true costs of each to find out. There can only be one winner and as we can already see the odds are stacked against one in particular.
When 2020 began the retail industry was already suffering having experienced its worst year in 25 years the year previously. And that was before the covid-19 pandemic. Things have only got worse since. By April 2020 footfall (people going to shops) fell to its lowest recorded level ever.
The online industry on the other hand is booming. Take a look at the only companies to have made any real money since 2020. Amazon, Microsoft, and other online companies are doing better than ever. Online shopping statistics are through the roof.
Asking which makes more sense in 2021 when talking about a retail versus a. virtual store is like asking a loaded question. In the current climate it could hardly be considered fair given that, you know, most of the retail stores are shut because of lockdowns.
And therein lies the retail shops great problem. They cannot get open and they are trying to compete with a virtual store which never closes.
As there seems to be no defined end to the various restrictions and lockdowns placed upon the public it is hard to know when the high street will even get a chance to compete against the online stores.
If anything, in 2021, a retail shop is more of a burden. You cannot make your usual sales and even though your shop is closed the costs are still mounting. The bills are needing to be paid. Your overheads loom large and omnipresent.
The only way a retail shop can become really viable again in 2021 would be for all restrictions to lift and for people to be rid of their fears of the virus so that they feel safe to venture back out into crowded spaces.
If that was the case we may even see a rapid rise in retail shopping and a decline online as people are happy to get back to their normal lives and take advantage of the lost freedoms we once took for granted.
The case for using a virtual store instead of a high street retail store was always going to be strong. Even before the pandemic and its devastating effect on footfall on the streets a virtual store had its own enticing merits.
Chief amongst the reasons for owning a virtual store is cost. You have no real overheads apart from your web hosting and domain name. You don’t have to worry about rent, electricity or heating costs, or any number of other hidden costs, like you would with a real-life retail store.
Some online virtual stores do not even have to store the products they sell. Dropshippers are known for setting up virtual stores where you buy a product from them which they then order direct from a supplier but get delivered from them to you.
A virtual store is not limited by geography either. You aren’t restricted to getting customers from your surrounding area. When online, the world is your surrounding area. Your potential marketplace is global in scale. The more people you can reach the better the chance your business will be a success.
“Having an online store has been a great boost for my company,” said Mr Nicolas Larsen when speaking about his successful rug company www.persianandmodernrugs.com “It has opened us up to a wide range of customers worldwide and has led to some exquisite rugs being placed in some equally fine homes, including cottages and castles, in the UK, USA and EU.”
The Retail Vs Virtual Store Battleground
The state of high street retail in the UK was recently covered by Statista research department. In their January 2021 report they begin by highlighting the main issue “One of the biggest changes associated with the retail industry in recent years has been the rapid growth in e-commerce sales,” they state. “This has created a large degree of uncertainty about traditional shopping formats, as many retailers worry about the future of the brick-and-mortar store.”
“In the UK concerns about the future of the high street are ever-present, with online sales now accounting for nearly one fifth of the country’s total retail sales.” They added. “These worries have been consolidated by declining footfall and sales figures seen on the high street in recent years.” Figures, which we have previously stated, that were pre-pandemic and can only have gotten worse since.
If the following years can be predicted from the previous ones then the future is not looking too bright for the high street and retail stores in general. Traditionally we still enjoy shopping in real life and a lot of people would still prefer to. They like getting to look at and touch the things they want to buy and often the shopping experience isn’t just about buying things. It can also be about meeting with friends and having a coffee and chat in-between your spending spree. It can be a social event as much as anything else and for that reason it will always have a special place in our hearts.
But whether that shopping experience only a retail shop can bring is enough to weather the storm of the pandemic restrictions and increasing levels of online shopping only time will tell.
For now the choice of starting a new store, either in real life or virtually, is no choice at all. If you want the best chance of success opening a virtual store is the way to go.