The impact of online apparel stores on in-store shopping:
A complement rather than a substitute
Due to the fast development of the Internet and the growing popularity of online shopping, some argue that the online shopping will substitute store shopping ultimately. For some products such as books and tickets, that might be true, however, for product like apparel - a kind of high-risk and hedonistic product, it is not the case. This essay demonstrates why it is less possible for online apparel shopping to substitute store apparel shopping and how it serves as a complement for store apparel shopping. Finally, some implications on how to make the online apparel shopping more appealing are given. 1. Introduction
With the development of information technology and the growth of the number of Internet users, a new channel of shopping has been growing dramatically - online shopping. According to Boston Consulting Group (BBC, 2010), the "internet economy" was worth 121 billion pounds in 2010, more than 2,000 pounds per person, which made it bigger than the healthcare, construction or education sectors. In particular, online shopping contributes to 8.3% of the UK economy, and is predicted to continue to expand at a rate of 11% per year for the next four years (ibid.).
There are numerous advantages for online shopping, both functional and non-functional. Functional motives include convenience, greater merchandise selection, unique merchandise offerings, and lower prices (Forsythe et al. 2006). While non-functional benefits are related to the enjoyment that gained from online shopping experience, which include “escapism” - offering an escape from the day-to-day world, “pleasure” - offering the feeling of joy and satisfaction, and “arousal” - making one feel stimulated, active or alert during the online shopping experience (Menon and Kahn, 2002).
As online shopping has so many advantages over in-store shopping, there is an increasing fear that it will devastate in-store shopping ultimately. Retailers are warned that the age of connectivity (“clicks”) would put traditional “bricks and mortar” retailers out of business (Flynn, 1995). It is, however, not the case for all sector and products. Liang and Huang’s (1998) empirical study of consumer willingness to shop online revealed that they preferred to buy some products (shoes, toothpaste, microwave oven) from traditional stores and other products (books and flowers) from online stores. As far as I am concerned, there are mainly two reasons why online shopping of some products are more likely to substitute in-store shopping of them. Firstly, consumers are more willing to buy low-risk products online than in store. Secondly, it is more enjoyable to buy some products in stores than online.
This essay will focus on the relationship of online and offline shopping of apparels. In the Ernst and Young’s Global Online Retailing Survey, apparel was ranked fourth among product categories frequently purchased through the Internet (Seckler, 2001). Despite the large number of online apparel purchases, I believe that online apparel shopping will not substitute in-store shopping for two reasons. Firstly, apparel is a high-risk product, one has to see, touch, feel, and try it on in person to ensure the quality. Secondly, apparel is much more enjoyable to buy in stores than online. However, instead of a substitute, online apparel shopping can be a complement to the store shopping by increase and improve the store shopping.
This essay will be divided into two parts. In the first part, I will illustrates the reasons why it is not realistic that online apparel shopping will replace in-store shopping. In the second part, I will discuss how online apparel shopping can complement the in-store shopping.
2. Why not a substitute?
Using the Internet as a substitute means that every shopping stage is handled...
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