Insight: How shopping is moving away from shops

Nearly half of every pound spent online in 2015 was spent with a retailer that had no shops, according to new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Arguably the biggest change to shopping in the 20th century was the emergence of supermarkets. The biggest change we’re seeing in the 21st century is the shift towards shopping online.

As online shopping has become the norm for many shopping has, to some, become even less personal; in 2008 just 5p of every £1 spent in shops was spent online – by 2015 this had risen to 13p.

The ONS study, Shopping in shops that have no ‘shops’ does point out that while 88 per cent of all UK shopping took place in physical stores in 2015, “the British public are not ready quite yet to move to an exclusively online shopping experience.” However, it says, some types of shopping might be more likely to take place online in the future. “It does seem,” said the report, “that there are some items we are more willing to buy online than others.”

Those items include clothing, with 12 per cent of spending taking place online, and department store purchases. The ONS report suggests this might be down to delivery and returns. “When ordering food to be delivered you have to ensure you are at home for the delivery – this is not so for clothing items. Also, it can be difficult and time consuming to return food but lots of clothing stores have made it free and very easy to return their products by making it possible to drop packages off at the corner shop for example, or using lockers in supermarkets.”

Looking at physical shops that also have an online presence, only 4p of every pound spent in shops mainly selling food was spent online, whereas 12p of every pound spent in clothing stores was spent online and 11p of every pound spent in department stores.

The analysis also looks at how shopping has changed in November – the period around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other online events. While 6 per cent of November shopping took place online in 2008, this had risen to 16 per cent by 2015.

“While people spend more overall online and in store in December than November, the advent of online sales events like Cyber Monday, which take place in November, and the increasing convenience of online shopping, has seen people seemingly using online buying as a chance to get organised early for Christmas,” said the report.

For more details, view the report here