Is The High Street A Thing Of The Past?

Where was the last place you shopped for clothes? For many consumers, the answer to this question is frequently becoming ‘online’. Online shopping offers the purchaser ease – shopping from just about anywhere, home delivery, and simple return processes. So, with this system more popular than ever, has the high street lost its appeal? Should we embrace online shopping as the sartorial future?

OnlineShopping.jpgAccording to the Royal Mail, 80% of British retail purchases are made online, with clothing being the most common of these purchases. There is clearly a huge demand for online shopping, and as a result many high street stores are beginning to tailor their services to meet the needs of an ever-increasing digital clientele. ‘Online exclusives’ are a common sight on websites like Urban Outfitters, Warehouse, and many more, and online retailers like ASOS, Missguided, and Boohoo have become as much of a go-to for fashion as high street shops. It is undeniable that being able to make a purchase from anywhere, at any time, and without queues and crowds is an attractive selling point. For those of us in St Andrews, with limited options, online shopping is a necessity if you want to look further than the shelves of H&M.

Sure enough, the appeal of online shopping has manifest in the closure of many high street stores around the UK. House of Fraser has announced it will shut 31 of its 59 shops, include its Oxford Street flagship. New Look launched plans to close 60 stores to restore profits, and the disappearance of their branch on Market Street seems to confirm this change. In contrast, the sales of online stores are booming. Last year, ASOS reported sales increases of 22%, and Boohoo a staggering 53%. The visible decline of the high street seems to testify to a lack of need for in-person shopping.

ASOS size guide.pngHowever, online retailers struggle to match the services of high street stores. For example, sizing clothes is an issue that continues to trouble fashion websites. Whilst retailers such as ASOS have introduced more accurate size guides, tailored to each person’s measurements, the risk of ill-fitting clothes remains, leaving many forced to buy two sizes in an item, and return the one that doesn’t suit. Additionally, some products look and fit very differently to the idealised styling presented on websites. A quick internet search reveals no end of complaints from those that received items looking nothing like the one they purchased.

Overall, while there seems to be a growing trend for online shopping, it can’t offer the same experience as high street stores. An institution of the sartorial scene, they give customers the chance to view clothes, shoes, and accessories first-hand, without the hassle of returning incorrect items. For now, a delicate balance remains between these retailers, but with the soaring profits of online shops, we may just be looking at a digitalised fashion future.  

– Talia Maggs-Rapport


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