Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Why online shopping still doesn't click with everyone

The High Street is under pressure from online traders. But internet shopping isn't all it's cracked up to be, says Donald C McFetridge

The year 2012 was definitely the year of the online, or multi-channel, retailer. The statistics are now appearing in my in-tray and vary from survey to survey, but it is safe to say that my predictions about this aspect of retailing were correct.

However, new research from MyByBox suggests that 27% of shoppers have had Christmas gifts go missing in the post over the festive period and that, to avoid disappointment, one-fifth of shoppers decided not to order any Christmas gifts online.

According to the research, the average value of each missing gift was estimated at £33, which equates to £400m-worth of Christmas presents lost somewhere in the ether.

In all, 24% of consumers who had chosen not to order online in 2012 feared that gifts would go missing in the post, while 23% were concerned that items would not arrive on time.

I was part of that 23% and my concerns were right: a Christmas gift which I ordered with a two-day delivery time (for which I paid extra) arrived nine days late.

In addition, 14% did not want to risk loved-ones discovering items in the post which were intended for Christmas Day.

More worrying is the fact that 60% of the 2,000 respondents had to travel to their sorting office to collect missed deliveries.

Again, I had a similar experience where I missed a delivery and, on eventually receiving a call from the delivery man, had to travel 20 minutes by car on icy roads to meet him 'half-way' in order to avoid having the goods returned to the distribution centre.

In order to avoid this sort of situation, 16% of consumers said that they had taken time off work to wait for deliveries, which resulted in an average of five-and-a-half hours off work in each instance.

We all know how tedious it can be, sitting in, waiting for deliveries to arrive, as we've all done it at some point. Most of us have better things to do with our Saturday mornings than heading to the sorting office to collect parcels.

In contrast to the MyByBox survey, Yodel, the national parcel delivery company, claims it successfully delivered more than 14 million parcels in the first 24 days of December.

In order to achieve this standard of performance, the company increased its operational capacity, with additional temporary service centres and 15 contingency warehouses.

It also increased storage at its busiest locations and thus managed to deliver this volume of parcels in spite of the inclement weather conditions and flooding which prevailed in various parts of the UK. Yodel is claiming its delivery performance a "festive success".

While more and more consumers are switching (for various reasons) to shopping online, it's obviously not all perfect just yet.

This Christmas, I used a mixture of both online and High Street and found pluses and minuses with each.

For example, I spotted an overcoat online at £240, but was uncertain about purchasing it in terms of size and how it would look in reality.

Therefore, I visited a retail outlet where I knew I could purchase it in person (which I did) and received a discount of £50 (at which I was delighted) only to return home to find that the exact same item (in my size) had been reduced online to £120.

I should point out, however, that the size I was planning to order online would have been far too big (necessitating the laborious procedure of returning and exchanging it for the correct size) and, in the event, I had the advantage of a pleasant shopping experience in a very nice shop - albeit it cost me an additional £70. You win some, you lose some.

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