British shoppers spent £133bn online in 2016

While the highstreet may be struggling, online shops are still continuing to show strong growth. British shoppers spent a whopping £133bn online last year, up a strong 15.9% year-on-year.

British shoppers spent £133bn online in 2016

That growth seems to come mainly from the small screen. With a smartphone in most pockets, customers are now potentially never too far away from a bargain no matter the time of day or night. Indeed, during December as customers got their Christmas shopping in, purchases made via smartphone were up some 47% year-on-year.

You can chart the success of online shopping pretty neatly against the decline of the high street. Figures published by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) show eight straight years of growth – and there are predictions of a further 14% increase in spending in 2017. Our friends at Statista have made a graph showing how the virtual shops have increased their market share each year since the recession:online_shopping_growth_uk

For what it’s worth, the biggest growth in 2017 was in accessories (38%) and lingerie (33%), followed by gifts (26%) and footwear (21%). Health and beauty didn’t have the same fortune, with sales dipping 3% in the same 12 months.

Still, overall it’s pretty clear that internet shopping is here to stay. So what better time to look back at the naysayers who said it would flop? Like futurists talking to Time Magazine back in 1966. The piece said that “among the futurists, fortunately, are sceptics, and they are sure that remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop—because women like to get out of the house, like to handle the merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”

You can forgive inaccurate predictions (and perhaps a touch of the sexism) when the text is over half-a-century old, however, so let’s bring back one from just 22 years ago. Step forward Clifford Stoll writing in Newsweek about how the internet would never catch on. The whole piece is worth a read, but this is what he said about online shopping:

“Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.”

That piece was published a year after Amazon was founded, for those keeping track.

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