Around 50-illion US shoppers boosted US retail sales during the Christmas holidays, due to bad weather – showing that online retail sales, due to the "comfort zone" – are going to inexorably increase.
Even though online retail shopping only accounts for a small part of sales in South Africa, this is something that is going to change over time, said Steve Mallaby, MD of UltiSales Retail Software, part of the JSE-listed UCS Group, one of the largest suppliers of retail solutions in the country.
"It is interesting to note that, due to bad weather, somewhere around 50-million US shoppers turned to online shopping. We don't experience the bad weather – including snow – that some areas of the USA do, but weather does play a part in a person's decision to rather shop online.
"As online costs come down and as more and more people get access to computers at home in South Africa we are definitely going to see more on-line shopping – and this is more likely to come from the younger generation, who are growing up with technology."
According to the US on-line publication, About.com, a growing number of large US retailers have integrated their on-line shopping with their traditional brick-and-mortar stores to give virtual shoppers the option to pick up their purchases instead of having them shipped. This, too, is a fast-growing trend.
Said Mallaby: "The mix of online shopping and brick-and-mortar is going to be the way of the future. People, including in South Africa, will choose what they want, on-line, and then go and pick up their purchases at the store. Convenience is the watchword here."