Billions to be spent online this Christmas

CONSUMERS are expected to spend about £10billion online this Christmas – and Colchester firms are trying to make the most of the expanding market.

About 12p in every £1 will be spent online this year, the largest amount ever, according to the Payments Council. In 2003, it was just 2p.

High Street shops and online sites offer separate shopping experiences.

Shops can offer exceptional customer service and bespoke services, while internet sites often win on price and have added convenience, to be able to shop without leaving your front room.

Savvy shoppers have also started to get the best of both worlds by indulging in window shopping and then buying goods cheaper online.

This has become so popular, there is even a new word in the Oxford English Dictionary for it – showrooming.

One of those in Colchester who has taken full advantage of the ongoing internet sales boom is Jeremy Wicks, founder of whybuynew.

co.uk He started the business as a teenage dad living at the back of his Audio Visual shop 20 years ago in Butt Road, Colchester.

The business grew, but margins got smaller, so in 2003 he launched WhyBuyNew as he saw the opportunities the internet would create in the future.

He started with Mail Order and then online with eBay in 2007.

By 2010, he was trading more than £1million worth of goods on eBay from his warehouse at Easter Park, off Axial Way.

Jeremy is the perfect example of someone who has changed with the market to take advantage of what shoppers want. Turnover is now in the multi-millions with online sales booming for his pre-owned, repackaged and ex-display electrical equipment.

By 2010, more than 100 entrepreneurs had sold more than £1million each through the internet auction site eBay and this number is rocketing year on year, as more people switch from shopping on the streets.

However, the High Street is far from history with 88p out of every £1 still spent in shops. This Christmas, consumers are due to s p e n d £82.7billion with d e b i t c a r d s bearing the brunt, but more credit also being taken – about £14.1billion worth according to the Payment Council.

Michelle Reynolds, chairman of the Colchester Retail Business Association, believes traditional shopkeepers have mixed feelings about the internet.

She said: “For some, it is a great opportunity, for others it is a threat. The threat is the people who shop in the evenings will go online instead.

“But if people do come into stores, they get so much more. They get expert advice, great customer service and an experience which is much more than buying online.

“You have to spend so much to establish yourself online you have to be big to benefit.

“Internet shopping is driven by price.

“Independent retailers are at a disadvantage and some would have to buy a website, which is an additional cost.”

Ms Reynolds believes niche products may be the key to internet success and accepts the market is growing.

But she, and her members, hope people don’t abandon their town centres and continue to make the best of both worlds.

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