Nicholas Marshall criticises online tardiness of retailers

The former Garden Centre Group chief said on My-Retail Media "grandees of the high street"..."still think (or hope) online sales will never replace a visit to their stores".

Last month, Marshall spoke about a possible purchase of Homebase.  Jeff Blue, formerly of Sports Direct, has also been linked with the move.

He said some retailers pay lip service to the new technology and even have a click and collect facility in their stores, "but clearly without much commitment".

Marshall added: "The reality is that consumers visiting the bombed-out shell of the high street, crowded with cheap booze shops, gambling dens and coffee bars, are finding it increasingly frustrating to shop there."

He said the result was to counteract falling sales, retailers have reduced staff and stock ranges "ensuring that the migration to Internet shopping is inevitable".

He said retailers with a large portfolio of shops are facing a "very difficult future" particularly payroll with the imminent introduction of the living wage. 

Marshall said Kingfisher would avoid 90,000 sq ft B&Q stores in favour of 3,000 sq ft Screwfix storesif it started again because Screwfix "can provide all that the customer requires online with click and collect".

He said Homebase "still only has a few per cent of its sales online and no obvious strategy for the future". He added that Argos and Sports Direct are behind with online sales while Wyevale Garden Centres "is promising to have an online presence some time in 2016. Wowee, one might be forgiven in thinking that they live on a desert island with no Internet access".

Marshall said sales on the internet this year rose 60 per cent on Black Friday: "A very Black Friday indeed for the owners of bricks and mortar, but it portends a blacker future."


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