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Is Apple to blame for the High Street's struggles?

Ashleigh Allsopp | Feb. 18, 2013
The recent failure of retailers such as HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster, Game, Comet and, and reports suggesting that 600 shops closed last year, have raised the question about what's to blame for the high street's struggles. Apple on the other hand is seeing huge success. What is Apple doing right? And is its success to blame for the failures of others?

According to the latest British Retail Consortium Online Retail Monitor, online retail searches from tablets have grown by 238 per cent and from smartphones 76 per cent year on year, with searches hitting a peak on Boxing Day, hinting that the popularity of mobile devices means customers can quickly and easily get access to the internet and online shopping from wherever they are.

"This strong growth shows how online retail really came of age this Christmas," said Helen Dickinson, Director General at the British Retail Consortium. "It's playing an increasingly significant role at every stage of the customer journey, especially when researching items and comparing prices both at home and on the move. Retailers continue to invest in their online offer, and more and more of us are reaping the resulting benefits of more flexible delivery options, user friendly websites and improved accessibility and security."

It's not just UK residents that are shopping online instead of taking to the high street. "Searches from overseas to UK retailers' sites also had a strong showing, up by 25 per cent on the fourth quarter of 2011," said Dickenson.

A report by Accenture Consultants entitled Understanding The Changing Consumer says: "Consumers are increasingly 'connected' - often online, interacting with companies and other consumers to research and purchase products, share advice, and praise or criticize a business. Nearly three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they use the internet to research or purchase products or services more than they did three years ago. Consumers are also increasingly using social media as a tool in the purchasing process."

However, it can be difficult for retailers to bring this 'connected' consumer to the high street.

Other factors are threatening the high street

Ex-Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has described high street shops as "medieval" during an interview with BBC Radio 4 this month. He believes that customers are choosing to shop at bigger supermarkets rather than smaller shops.

And with supermarkets now stocking technology, DVDs, CDs, books, games and more, customers are able to purchase their grocery shopping at the same time as picking up gifts and gadgets.

Supermarkets are even able to open dark stores which are only open to staff who will do your shopping for you after you've ordered it online.

Piracy and crime could also be contributing to the high street's decline, with the cost of retail crime rising to £1.6 billion, according to BRC. This represents an increase of 15.6 per cent in a year.

What can retailers learn from Apple?

At the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference on 12 February, Apple's CEO Tim Cook said that the company's high street stores are "the face of Apple" and that he will continue to invest in them.


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