Is The Internet Making Us Thirsty?

I was driving through a small village called Stockton Heath the other weekend, and I noticed something that made me think. They've just opened a Costa Coffee on the main road through the village. Not just a cute, comfy coffee shop though, but a gigantic shop the size of two retail units. For a village.

You may have noticed that either a Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero has opened near to you in the last few months. Walking around Manchester, every street has at least one brand along it. Coffee is big business, worth over 60-80 billion dollars, with sales increasing constantly all the time. For Costa to afford to open a double retail unit in a village like Stockton Heath shows there is demand so why? I think online shopping is the key.

This post follows on from a discussion I started in the office last week and everyone was of the same opinion. We are more likely to buy goods on the internet due to the cheaper price and convenience. I'll admit that I personally haven't bought anything from a shop in months, all my recent purchases have been over the internet due to the easy search of choice and ease of looking through un-pressured at my own time.

Many people feel the same, online sales are booming as I mentioned back in December (Next reported a surge of 20% in their recent figures), yet retail sales are falling but the high street is buzzing. So whats going on?

People say that online shopping will spell the end of the high street. It won't. The high street is buzzing, people like going out and having a mooch. Due to buying online I don't need to go 'shopping'. 'Shopping' now simply becomes a trip out. Shops have become more of a browse than a need to purchase. I can see it with myself sub-consciously, although I do all my shopping online I still like to venture to town, mainly to large retail parks. Yet I find that going 'shopping' is now more setting about a target such as "hey we could go to the Trafford Centre, have a look around, a meal then maybe the cinema what do you think?". Even going into Northwich, we go for a 'pootle around' and 'hey we could pop into Costa for a coffee too for a bit'.

When I go to the Trafford Centre I always go to Caffe Nero for one of their Ice Crushes, they are amazing. I'm lucky to walk out with any other purchase.

A recent trip out to a major Marks And Spencer complex at Handforth Dean was seen as simply a trip out and where did we venture to first when we walked into the store? The coffee shop. The only thing we bought in this whole superstore was a coffee, a fruit shake, banana and fruit mix. This little coffee shop at the back of this gigantic place was rammed, none of the tills even had queues as big in this coffee shop!

Stores are simply having to re-think their strategies, how can we make people stay and spend? Simply a sexy shop window and a 99% off sale isn't a draw anymore. I just get pissed off that they've marked up the products by 99% in the first place!

HMV is already working towards it, with music purchases going nearly all on downloads they have already lost one major revenue stream, and it will only be time before movies and games follow too. One thing they are doing to combat this, while still keeping a profile on the high street, is introducing download kiosks in store surrounded by comfortable sofas.

Another idea for them would be to set up video game contests in stores, perhaps show movie previews and all the while the customer is being served drinks and snacks. Because lets face it, if you're finishing off a hot coffee, you're tied in for at least 5 minutes in the store.

Online shopping buys us more time. More time to chill, relax and socialise as well. Perhaps we will see a boom in more social and leisure venues such as Stockley Working Farm near me. One thing is for sure, I bet they have a coffee shop!

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