UK online shoppers outspend the world – but will they kick the habit when the high street reopens?

high street

ParcelHero’s latest research reveals the average Brit spent £3,379 online last year – a world-beating figure. 12 April may come too late to save the High Street – so Business Leader spoke to home delivery expert ParcelHero to get their view.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: “The reopening of many stores in April can’t come too soon for High Street retailers. In fact, it may be too late already. UK shoppers now lead the world in the great migration to online.

“ParcelHero’s latest global trade analysis found Brits’ annual online £3,379 shopping bonanza eclipsed Denmark’s £3,056 average online spend and America’s £2,753 average.

“When averaged out over the number of online shoppers in each country, the UK had a significantly higher spend than any other nation. Only Denmark showed a similar love affair with online shopping.

“ParcelHero’s figures are supported by research from payment machine comparison site Merchant Machine, which found that, although China and the USA have a higher overall online spend, those nations have a far higher population than the UK. Merchant Machine found China spends $1,276.2B (£954.9B) and the USA $830.7B (£621.6B), compared to the UK’s $233B (£174.3B).

“Both England and Scotland are set to reopen non-essential stores in April. That will be a huge test for the future of the UK’s High Streets. Will the spring weather lure people back to town centre shops or will newly acquired online shopping habits prove too hard to kick?

“The answer is partly down to how well the country negotiates its way out of lockdown. Certainly, a fourth lockdown in England would spell the end for many physical stores.

“Clearly, e-commerce has become vital not only for retailers, but the UK economy as a whole. The news online Brits now spend the most comes as six of the country’s largest online retailers, including Asos, Boohoo and Ocado, have launched the UK Digital Business Association (UKDBA). Its aim is not only to give online retailers a voice and help drive the economic recovery, but also, crucially, to help store-based retailers develop their business online.

“In January 2017, ParcelHero released a high-profile report: 2030: Death of the High Street. It concluded that, unless retailers developed an omnichannel approach  embracing both online and physical store sales, 40% of all UK retail would move online by 2030. Covid has clearly accelerated this change. The latest Office for National Statistics figures reveal that January online sales had already reached 34.2% of the entire UK retail spend. With the UK average online spend leading the world, it looks as if we will reach that 40% figure even earlier than 2030.

“Only stores that embrace their website as their most important shop window and ensure their online service matches the standard of their in-store experience will survive.”