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Will recession kill real world shopping?

AvantiKumar | Dec. 2, 2008
Malaysians versus Brit lifestyle

I will soon be back in England for Christmas with family. Friends there tell me of a new phenomenon: they say the recession could help speed up the death of High Street shops, especially among the young.

Indeed, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), normally antipathetic towards the internet, has published new research comparing online shopping with High Street commerce. It seems that sales have fallen on the High Street for the first time since 2005, whereas online sales rose by more than 16 per cent.

While BRC is steadfast about stressing that online only accounts for about 4 per cent of retail sales, it admits online sales have their attraction. In addition, of course, there are low overheads for many internet operations. Friends in England say that they know of dotcoms that have started to break into profit from 2003 onwards.

As the young become serious purchasers, online business can only grow, said a BBC friend of mine.

Its different in Malaysia

However, in Malaysia, things are a little different. The weather drives families and youngsters into air-conditioned malls. Internet usage on smartphones means teenagers can hang out inside.

A freelance writer told me that whereas youngsters here ape many of the trends in the west, some things are not going to change. For one thing, she says, there are some things you have to see before you whip out your credit card.

Sure, you can pay for movie tickets with your phone, maybe buy music. But food, clothes…long way off.

Besides, theres one major factor that is going to keep people in the malls, though they can now take the internet with them via their smartphones.

Its the weather we have here, you see, she says. The internet is not the real world, it only thinks it is.

AvantiKumar is the Malaysia correspondent for Fairfax tech brands and deputy editor of Computerworld Malaysia.  


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