Christmas shoppers at John Lewis in Solihull are migrating to the net – with a third of festive purchases ordered online by hordes of tech-savvy customers.

The huge increase in internet shopping is transforming the high street, with the flagship Touchwood store seeing more and more seasonal shoppers buying their Christmas presents at the click of a mouse.

Solihull head of branch Julie Blake described the growth in online trade as “incredible” – and said the proportion of internet purchases was now around a third compared to only ten or 20 per cent just five years ago.

But she said the traditional shopping experience was still a key element for the vast majority of John Lewis customers, with 85 per cent continuing to visit the store, even if ultimately placing their orders through a screen.

 

“It is really quite incredible. Click and collect is increasingly popular at John Lewis and Waitrose – you can go online and decide how you want to pick up your goods.

“A third of our sales will go through an online channel this Christmas. We are all busy people and there are more and more of us working. If you are at work, you can pop in in your lunch-hour. Itt is quick and convenient.

“It’s through mobile phones and tablets – that is where we have noticed the spectacular growth. Customers will still come in to collect, 85 per cent will come to the shop. They might be researching, although they may go home and buy online.

“Customers that are going into shops are looking for more of a retail experience. I think it is quite possible that online will continue to grow. That is the way the market is moving.

“The two have to go together. You have to do the shops well; you have to do online well. Five years ago, the shop to online proportion would have been 90 per cent to ten per cent, or 80 per cent to 20 per cent. Some things we sell online only – musical instruments, sheds, lawn-mowers.”

Solihull-based PR and marketing co-ordinator Shani Ellis said: “You have still got older people who like to come to the shop but online shopping is not just restricted to tech-
savvy youngsters. There is a huge market for older people who want to go online. You have got every kind of customer who is doing that.

“Customers sit with their iPads at home at 11pm, and they will do all their shopping at night. It is through a tablet, phone, home computer. Technology is here to stay and we have to embrace that. But there are still customers who want the traditional shopping experience, they want to pick things up, try them on.

“From what we can see, we will have customers, the so-called silver surfers, who are just as savvy as ten-year-olds. For so many people, it has unlocked a new world.”

Julie Blake said the Solihull store had enjoyed a record day for trading in its 13-year history on the recent Black Friday.

“We had the best day in the store. We were 61 per cent up on Black Friday last year,” she said. “Tablets and TVs were the most popular. I think that a lot of people had taken the day off. It’s a change in customer behaviour.”

The upmarket chain clocked up its biggest ever week for sales in its 150-year trading history during the Black Friday phenomenon, with turnover of £179.1 million across the UK. Online sales were up 42.2 per cent year on year.