Christmas is the one time of year when shops can count on customers coming in – yet the British Retail Consortium said this week that high street sales are ‘flatlining’. High street or online – which camp are you in?
Despite being the Which? shopping expert, I don’t relish – or even enjoy – Christmas shopping.
Space in shops is in demand, and fellow shoppers think nothing of elbowing you aside to grab the last box of chocolates on the shelf. While shop assistants are harried and short-tempered – which is understandable, given the endless stream of customers and the number of times they’re forced to listen to ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’… everyday.
My switch to online
After spending too much of the previous December fighting my way through the crowds thronging Oxford Street, I vowed last year to buy as many presents online as possible.
It’s been a breeze by comparison. I could find almost any item in a few clicks, and get it delivered to my parents’ house, saving me having to carry a sackful of gifts on the busy Christmas Eve train home. Most items were cheaper online, which helped to keep my always-hefty January credit card bill at a manageable level.
Clearly, I’m not the only person who’s been converted to online present shopping. Brits are expected to spend £13.4bn online in the run-up to Christmas – up 14% on last year – according to figures from IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group).
Is the high street doomed?
But this increase in online sales is bound to lead to more gloomy news for the high street. Just last week, Arcadia – owner of BHS, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, among others – announced plans to close 260 stores. If shops can’t entice us in during the busiest shopping period of the year, what chance do they have of surviving?
While I now do most of my Christmas shopping online, I wouldn’t want to abandon the high street entirely. If I’m struggling to think of a good present for someone, I usually find browsing in a shop much better at providing inspiration than online. Sites like Amazon are great when you know what you want, but if you don’t, then the sheer number of items they stock makes it hard to know where to start.
Maybe the greater number of us buying presents online will lead to smaller crowds and time for shop staff to pause for breath. That might not be good news for shops’ bottom lines, but it would certainly make Christmas shopping on the high street a more pleasant experience.
How much Christmas shopping will you be doing online? Are there certain situations where you prefer to visit an actual shop – and would you miss the high street if it was gone?
How much Christmas shopping will you do online this year?
Most online (34%, 129 Votes)
About half and half (29%, 109 Votes)
Most in the shops (18%, 68 Votes)
All in the shops (15%, 56 Votes)
All online (5%, 19 Votes)
Total Voters: 382