My mother surprised me when I spoke to her recently. As a 70-year old that has been retired for 10 years, and arguably has too much time on her hands, I was not shocked by the fact that she had already bought all of the Christmas presents for her seven grand-children by mid-October. No, what surprised me was that she had purchased all of those presents online. She enthusiastically told me how much money (and time) she had saved, 'I got 20% off on Amazon' and 'it was much cheaper on Tesco direct' etc.
It suddenly occurred to me just how widespread online shopping has become. While it seems like Amazon has been around for as long as the internet, the first customers to use its service were overwhelmingly young. Entire companies, like ASOS, have been built on the back of young people embracing online retail but now that the baby-boomer generation (aptly named 'the silver surfers') is comfortable buying everything online, what does the future hold for retail property landlords?
When we first started using the internet, which for most of us was in the late-1990s, and we immediately hated the sound that our computer made when 'dialing up' the internet, we all logged on to Friends Reunited and sent our first emails using Hotmail or Yahoo. We even used to say "www" at the start of every website address, until someone told us that you don't actually need to say that, or even type it for that matter. (Editor's note… "Oh!")
But 20 years ago, while we knew the internet was going to be a 'game changer', few would have predicted the impact it would have on a typical high street.
Thanks to the arrival of large out of town supermarkets, we had already seen most of the butchers, greengrocers, bakers and off-licenses close, but then came along websites like Expedia, so many of the travel agents eventually closed. Then we did more banking online and banks started closing. Sites like sportsdirect.com led to sports shops closing. Amazon took large chunks of market share from book stores, music shops and toy stores. Netflix arrived and put the final nail in the coffin for Blockbusters. The list of actual retail stores that have been taken on and defeated by online companies is very long.