West Midlands retailers are missing out on much-needed Christmas business by not setting up a website and trading online, according to a new report from Barclaycard Business.
Its research showed that 70 per cent of businesses questioned in the West Midlands do not currently trade online and are missing out on lucrative Christmas sales as millions of shoppers shun the high street to shop online.
The research comes from the first Barclaycard Business Retail in Detail Survey – an annual survey of more than 1,000 retailers across the country.
The aim of this new survey is to build a comprehensive picture of the nation’s high street and to gauge the views of retail owners in the UK today.
The survey also gives an insight into the potential benefits to a retailer of trading online. It found that of those retailers in the West Midlands who were able to accept business over the internet, half (50 per cent) had seen an increase in their business over the last 12 months.
To investigate the motives for trading online the research looked at why so many retailers in the West Midlands were still not trading over the internet and benefiting from the new online marketplace.
It found nearly one in five retailers in the West Midlands (18 per cent) cited the cost of setting up online as a barrier to implementation and more than one in five (21 per cent) responded that they didn’t have the technical expertise to get started.
Barclaycard Business commercial director Bill Thomson said: "The growth of online shopping over the last five years has opened up a lucrative new revenue stream for retailers in the West Midlands. "However, it is clear from our research that many retailers are not yet benefiting from this new income by making their goods and services available online.
"Our research shows that many retailers in the West Midlands perceive setting up online as a costly exercise.
"In fact the opposite is true. Starting to trade online can be extremely quick and cost effective; a move that can deliver new business which will quickly repay any initial costs."
The survey of all retailers across the UK also revealed that the number of years a retailer has been operating had a direct link on whether they traded online or not.
One in three retailers (36 per cent) operating for between one and two years traded online compared to just 24 per cent of retail businesses that have been trading for ten to 15 years.
Mr Thomson added: "Just because a retailer has been operating for a number of years does not mean that they should be deterred from starting up online.
"If a company has built up a strong reputation among its client base over many years, adding a new way to market its products and services can attract new customers, grow the retailer’s income and ultimately grow its business."
Meanwhile, with Christmas just round the corner businesses could face an increase in staff ordering presents online and getting them delivered to their workplace.
This year the problem could be exacerbated as many retail experts have predicted web sales to increase by around 40 per cent.
Consumers are expected to spend a record #7 billion online in the run-up to Christmas day – double that for the same period of 2004 – according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group.
But Hammonds in Birmingham says it raises a number of employment issues that employers need to be aware of and tackle especially during the pre-Christmas rush.
"This isn't an easy conundrum for any employer," says Teresa Dolan an employment specialist at Hammonds in Birmingham.
"Should an employer play Scrooge and clamp down on all online shopping at work and make staff take a day's holiday to accept deliveries at home?
"Or, should businesses show a little Christmas spirit by allowing staff to accept personal deliveries at work, and in turn boost attendance levels during one of the busiest times in the business year?"
According to Hammonds a number of internet retailers, including clothing and wine companies, already advise customers on their websites to arrange deliveries for their place of work.
But Teresa Dolan warned: "Statements like this are misleading and may fool employees into thinking this practice is permissible, when in reality the opposite is the case."
Most businesses already have IT policies, which include clauses on the use of work computers for personal shopping. However, employers should also have clear guidelines on using the employer's work address as a delivery point.
"It is vital that employers strike the right balance. Clearly you don't want employees to transform your post room staff into Santa's little helpers, to the extent that work related deliveries get delayed or even lost.
"However, allowing a reasonable amount of personal Christmas post to be delivered may boost morale and demonstrate a flexible approach to the increasingly difficult issue of work/life balance," she said.