Bigger slice for retailers with internet presence

Internet sales continue to rise with gardening-related products in hot demand.

Garden retailers with an online presence are taking bigger slices of the retail market as more customers opt to surf the internet, rather than pound the high street. Figures from the Interactive Media & Retail Group show that 10 per cent of all retail sales occur online — a 2,000 per cent rise in just six years. The internet accounts for £30bn of retail spending, while £30bn of offline retail sales are helped by internet research or stimuli. Ninety per cent of shoppers researched goods online before buying on the high street. Grovelands Garden Centre in Berkshire doubled its turnover after setting up a shopping website three years ago. Managing director James O’Rourke said customers now expected to find an online presence with product information and the ability to purchase. But he warned that setting up an online service could cost up to £100,000 for “even the most simple shopping website”. He said online prices were also rising, putting pressure on margins. Managing director Tony Milne of gardening catalogue Queenswood Garden Products, which has run a website for eight years, said sales rose annually by about 10 per cent. He said margins were being hit by rising competition, particularly Ebay, where an online presence could be created for £50. “Ebay is the single biggest market on the internet. It will soon be the main method of buying things online.” Milne added: “The internet is a bit of a poisoned chalice. The cost of setting up shop online has fallen to almost nothing. Because it costs very little, prices are tumbling. Online sales are on the up but they are all at the cost of margin.”

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