High Streets Initiative · 14 September 2018

Will 2082 be the year ecommerce kills off the high street for good?

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So far in 2018, online sales already account for 17.5% of all retail transactions

64 years from now, all retail sales will be made online, according to a new study. Could 2082 be the year the high street sees its final shopper?

Using retail sales data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), live chat platform Yomdel made projections for every year on the proportion of purchases made online compared to bricks and mortar shops.

For the last decade, the general trend has been a dramatic shift towards ecommerce, with technology enabling consumers and businesses to trade easily online. Retailers that have failed to adapt have already struggled to square the overheads of running a physical business with the competitive prices found online.

In 2007, the average number of online sales as a proportion of all retailing was just 3.3%. So far in 2018, online sales already account for 17.5% of all retail transactions.

Year Online sales as a proportion of total retail sales Year-on-year change
2007 3.30% N/A
2008 4.90% 1.60%
2009 6.20% 1.30%
2010 7.20% 1.00%
2011 8.20% 1.00%
2012 9.20% 1.00%
2013 10.40% 1.20%
2014 11.30% 0.90%
2015 12.40% 1.10%
2016 14.20% 1.80%
2017 16.20% 2.00%
2018 (to date) 17.50% 1.30%

Following this trend, the research found that by 2024, a quarter of all retail sales could be made online, with this hitting 50% by 2044.

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Over the last 10 and a half years, the figure has grown steadily at an average increase of 1.29% a year. While it looks set to take some time longer, this could increase to three-quarters of all retailing by 2063.

Year Online sales as a proportion of total retail sales Year-on-year change
2044 51.04% 1.29%
2082 100.06% 1.29%

The study concluded that bricks and mortar retail outlets could become instinct by 2082 as 100% of retailing moves online.

Commenting on the findings,Yomdel CEO, Andy Soloman, said further innovation to the retail sector could see the high street struggle to exist “a lot sooner” that the figures suggest.

“However, we believe the human element is absolutely vital in commerce – even with the best technology – and particularly when dealing with complex customer enquiries,” he explained.

“Rather than the high street becoming obsolete, we like to believe it will survive and evolve to deal with the changing face of consumer behaviour as people will always value that personal aspect that a physical shop provides.”

“What’s perhaps more important for high street retailers to consider, is how they not only pivot with the times but integrate a successful solution into their current offering to accommodate a growing preference for customers to approach and engage with their business online.

“This could be through a more engaging website, web-based contact options such as automated contact forms, a well-formed FAQs section or a managed live chat service. The internet isn’t going away, but there’s more than enough room for everyone to exist and to use it to our benefit.”

Read more on the current state of UK high streets:

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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