Is the Shift to E-Commerce Killing Retail? – Liberal Article

COVID-19 has accelerated the world of e-commerce, will storefronts die out? – Liberal Article

Although COVID-19 has not been as stable as politicians expected, one predictable thing has developed out of the pandemic: Electronic Commerce. ‘E-commerce’ is the sale of goods and services over the internet; rather self-explanatory.

As countries across the world have suffered various forms of lockdowns, purchasing goods online has never been easier. Ranging from food outlets to streaming services, thousands of products can now be purchased at the click of a button. COVID-19 has opened the door to the world of electronic shopping.

Online shopping has been around long before COVID-19 struck, but the virus has accelerated its growth. Data provided by IBM’s U.S. Retail Index shows that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift from physical shopping to online by 5 years. This is an incredibly high rate. E-commerce is also expected to grow another 20% by the end of 2020 (from August). People are trusting the use of online shopping to fulfil their needs.

The big winner of the pandemic is Amazon. Between May and July, Amazon saw a 60% rise in sales compared to the same time frame from the previous year.

In my opinion, there are two large factors that have caused the rapid growth of the world of e-commerce. The first being lockdowns. This has little to do with the decision-making of consumers, as many people were physically unable to purchase from physical locations. Many shops were forced to close due to domestic laws and people were limited in their ability to shop even if they were open.

Secondly, is fear. When Europe experienced the first spike of cases from March to May, many people were afraid of catching the virus, and rightly so. This caused many people to change their consumption habits, as well as their daily routines. We saw fewer people browsing the high streets and only shopping when it was required. However, people were happy to browse Amazon, often buying products they previously would not have considered before (myself included).

Although I am all for moving towards the world of e-commerce, especially in times like these, there are serious problems to consider.

Firstly, is the world of physical shopping. There have been countless shops and even chain stores that have been forced to close down locations and unemployment in this sector has seen a massive rise. We often forget that purchasing a product online instead of in a shop is damaging to someone else’s livelihood.

Secondly, there is the impact on the whole economy if physical retail outlets close. According to OECD, on average across OECD economies, retail makes up nearly 5% of GDP. If a large number of shops were to close we would see a detrimental impact on national GDPs across the world. In addition to the large increase in expenditure on unemployment benefits, tax revenue would take a large hit.

Perhaps next time you go to buy something, think about buying it in a shop (if safe to do so), rather than ordering it off of Amazon.

Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael

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Point of Information

Increase in e-commerce is pandemic economics – A Conservative Response

During this Pandemic, we have seen major shifts in economic trends all over the globe. In our ever more interconnected and integrated existence, we have felt and seen the impacts of COVID-19 severely.

We have gone from an age of scholars signalling the “end of geography” to now, where it is almost unprecedentedly difficult to travel to your nearest shop in person due to legal and safety reasons; one’s own safety alongside the safety of others.

It has also become exceeding difficult to travel. Not just locally, not just domestically, but internationally. The UK Government’s list of ‘Travel Corridors’ has slowly been decreasing as well as the acceptable reasons for travelling abroad, such as for work or education, limiting those who are permitted to leave the country.

With regards to the economy and “death of the high-street”, this is a process which predates the pandemic. In reality, it has origins predating the Global Financial Crash; heavily linking with E-commerce which Charlie explains.

I do not disagree with Charlie’s points of livelihoods at risk, or the need to support small businesses. But I do believe that this process has been a long time coming. The pandemic has simply accelerated it for the exact reasons Charlie states; safety and the convenience of online shopping.

The real issue here is how to protect people. In the UK we have been fortunate to have had the Furlough scheme (I tip my hat to Rishi Sunak for that), and its continuation into March next year. Although Charlie urges people to consider purchasing more from shops in person, I question the practicality of this during the pandemic.

On one hand, I wholeheartedly agree and have always personally preferred browsing the shelves of shops rather than the pages on Amazon. But on the other hand, I find myself trying to avoid spending long periods of time in shops. Mainly to avoid catching COVID, but also because it has become a faux pas.

As one walks around in a shop you can see staff monitoring you, making sure you do not touch anything you do not wish to purchase; being overly careful to remain as socially distanced from you as possible.

Obviously, you cannot blame them for this; not only is it law to maintain social distancing, but it is also for their own well-being, and they are only doing their job. You can also observe similar attitudes and actions from fellow customers as well.

Although I do not blame anyone for this, one must admit it makes shopping a less enjoyable experience.

Overall, I share Charlie’s optimism for shopping in person during the pandemic. E-commerce may be taking over as a predominant form of shopping, but it can never replace the satisfaction or enjoyment of shopping in person alongside the need to protect people’s livelihoods.

Fundamentally, shopping in person helps to maintain some sense of normality as well; something I personally wish to cling on to. Hopefully, our readers do too.

Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce

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An inevitable move, but not the best one – A Labour Response

The whole idea of e-commerce is based on saving time and shopping from home. The boost this industry is getting due to COVID-19 is indeed affecting many other businesses.

However, it is not entirely a fact that e-commerce really saves time. 

When you don’t have to bother carrying the shopping bags, dragging trolleys, or walking from one shop to the other to find a good bargain, you can waste hours on browsing e-commerce sites. All you have to do is sit on your comfy couch with your laptop and use all the time in the world (which we have thanks to lockdowns).

The time that could be used for many other productive activities like reading, physical activities or even spending time with family, is now mostly wasted surfing online. Due to COVID-19, this has sadly increased.

The second thing that we are neglecting is that where on one hand, the industry has a promising future with great profits, it can also be a cause of unnecessary expenses on the consumer’s side. People keep buying online because they see a good deal and not because it is a necessity. Most purchases are used once or twice and then kept in storage just to be eventually thrown out. The small delivery charges might not seem much but, in the long run, it is a huge amount that we pay just for some extra comfort.

One also shouldn’t forget the lack of physical activity e-commerce is causing. When you have everything available with just a click, you wouldn’t bother to walk a mile for that product – it’s human nature. COVID-19 and its lockdowns have already limited our mobility and badly affected our physical activities; e-commerce is getting us addicted to more comfort. In the long run, this will definitely affect health and wealth.

Another side effect of e-commerce is that you don’t get the chance to test the product before making a deal. While return options are available, returning and waiting for a refund or replacement takes time, and us humans lack patience. So unless the product costs a really high price, people don’t really bother returning the products if they find the product to be near its description.

However, COVID-19 should not be entirely blamed for every problem. We have to keep in mind that the human race is fully capable of destroying itself in one way or another. And the search for comforts will never stop.

So it was inevitable that at some point we would have become totally dependent on e-commerce. There are some businesses that will have to evolve with time. For example, analog cameras are no longer in high demand because the world has gone digital. But on the other hand, some businesses will stand strong no matter what comes in competition.

Radio was once seen as a threat to newspapers. But today we have radio, TV and online media, and newspapers haven’t lost their value. It’s all about survival tactics in the business world.

Written by Junior Labour Writer, Shamamah Dogar

Charlie Papamichael
Co-head social media marketing at | Website

I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.

Peter Pearce
Junior Conservative Writer | Website

I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.

Shamamah Dogar
Guest Labour Writer

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