Skip to main content

This online shopping surely won't catch on

The BBC has recently put out a nice little video about the birth of online shopping:

I still remember the early days of Amazon, when a lot of people cast doubt on its ability to become profitable. After all, it was argued, we like to get our hands on goods, to look at them and touch them, before we buy. How said people must be feeling silly now.

It's not that we have turned our backs in visiting physical shops. You only have to head down to Swindon's designer outlet centre at the weekend to realize this isn't the case. But for those at work, most shops simply don't operate in the hours when they want to go shopping. If you've a 9 to 5 job, then you can shop before 9 or after 5. So when do shops open? Often 9 to 5.30. Clever thinking, guys. Is it too much of a surprise then that people turn to online retailers, where they can shop where and when they like?

Convenience has to be a major part of the argument. In our last house, where the nearest supermarket was 20 minutes drive away, we almost always had our groceries delivered. Now I've a massive 24 hour superstore 5 minutes walk away we are much more likely to just pop over and get what we need when we need it. Town centres hardly help with this by charging for car parking, so not only have we to take time to get there, we have to pay to park. Is it surprising that customers head for out of town or online shopping?

Online stores have a big disadvantage because you can't see the goods before you buy them - but they make up for this with their convenience of access and by trying to provide superb customer service. If bricks and mortar shops want to keep going they should build on the advantage of presence by seeing how they can improve their access and get much better at how they treat their customers. That way, they could still give the Amazons of this world a run for their money.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope