back to article Ofcom: UK beats the US... in race to buy online tat

British people are the world's biggest online shoppers, according to new research from the regulator Ofcom. Blighty's sofa shoppers in their slippers now spend £1,017 a year online, up by almost £150 from 2012. About three-quarters of Brits buy stuff on the internet once a month, while 24 per cent make purchases every single …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The perfect combination

    > The UK is by quite a long way the place where people spend most online

    When you add together the effect of a poor range of shops, with small choices of goods, high in-store prices and lousy parking/access, is it any surprise?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The perfect combination

      So I guess that the U.K.'s current rash of Amazon distribution center exposes is not so much investigative journalism as it is workforce documentation?

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: The perfect combination

        There are thousands of other on-line stores you can do business with.

        I've just done some business with a very small company on the Isle of Skye. A very far cry from Amazon.

        Yes I do use Amazon but that is for downloadable stuff.

        Most of my Christmas shopping will be done with SME's not the big guys.

    2. Z-Eden

      Re: The perfect combination

      Add in the (personal) annoyances of:

      having to queue

      pushy salesmen

      crappy music (especially at Christmas time)

      Cost of driving to and parking at town. Public transport not much cheaper or convenient these days

      Although you mentioned the prices, the eye watering prices of some products is ridiculous

  2. chr0m4t1c

    "There are a number of reasons for this. We have a long history of catalogue shopping in the UK.

    What this has done is that we trust people to deliver parcels, and we're used to getting parcels delivered to our homes and we're used to using credit cards."

    I'd add that we also have quite good consumer protection laws, particularly those dealing with distance selling.

    1. Hieronymus Howerd

      Last thing I ordered online didn't turn up.

  3. DuncanL

    "we're used to getting parcels delivered to our homes"

    And it gives us a chance to have a good moan about how crap delivery companies are - HDN\Yodel\Hermes name your villain of choice!

    And there's nothing us Brits like more than a moan on a forum! ;-)

  4. James Hughes 1

    As others have said, but why not again....Cost/lack of parking, cost of petrol, lack of time, insufficient choice and squeezed incomes forcing use of the lowest cost reseller, and it all seems quite obvious.

  5. TitterYeNot


    "About three-quarters of Brits buy stuff on the internet once a week, while 24 per cent make purchases every single week."

    Am I having a reading & comprehension failure here, or does that sentence make absolutely no sense and some evil statistician somewhere is screwing with my head?

    Apologies if I'm having a blonde moment being a bit fick. And it's not even Friday yet...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Que?

      If you change the first instance of week to 'month' it makes a little more sense.

      But yes it is pretty wierd though.

      1. StephenD

        Re: Que?

        The weird thing is my brain substituted 'month' for 'week' automatically, and I couldn't understand the original problem until I read AC's reply.

  6. Arachnoid

    Nowt like statistics........

    And Im sure of those 24% the survey shows 100% use the internet for their purchase with great expectation of at least 99.9% delivery within the allocated time period.

  7. phil dude


    Retail in the UK is highly non-linear. Being from a London suburb where there are loads of shops you could be mistaken into thinking that was uniform. But no.

    In Oxford it was absolutely awful, unless you have a car or live in summertown and have the coin. I had a car in my first year and it was painful to shop in the burbs, as your parking place went missing. Living in Cowley has its own rewards... What surprised me with buying groceries online in the UK was it was pretty convenient. I am pretty sure they jacked the prices up though....

    Here in the USA you need a car. But then everything becomes the same "15 minutes" no matter where you go. And the range of stuff is unbelievable. Walmart bought Asda, and Asda looks a bit like Walmart. But in this small town of 300,000 there are at least 3 Walmarts, 2 Best Buys, 2 SuperTargets (1small one) etc....

    Buying online in the USA needs to be at least 10% cheaper to make it worthwhile (state tax vs shipping). In the UK I suspect the inflated prices of most things, VAT uniformity makes it a bit of a toss up.

    Pounds for dollars for just about everything...


  8. Lost in Cyberspace


    Can't be dealing with driving 15 miles to park, walk, and hunt for things (unless it's clothes).

    Much easier to find it online and then decide whether to reserve and collect, or wait a day or so for delivery.

    The guys that get my business are normally those that can get the price:availability equation right and those without an online presence don't get a look-in.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whenever I feel my hopes for humanity rising

    I just pop along to visit:

  10. Piro Silver badge

    To be fair, other countries have shite high street shops too

    In Denmark, for example, attempting to purchase a laptop resulted in finding out it was the last on the shelf, only the display model was available.

    Great, you think, a discount and the laptop you wanted.

    Not so, the sales person would only give a 5% discount... if you took out an enormously expensive insurance policy. Otherwise it was full price. For a display model that had been run 24/7.

    Later, I simply found it online for less than the price in the shop...

    So, you can't even find a bargain where you think shops would have an advantage - display models. So what's even the point of wasting your time and energy visiting them? Beats me.

    (Sadly in Denmark there aren't as many online shops with enormous choice. I wish Amazon was there, would save money shipping from the UK!)

    All that said, at least the town centres generally have free parking, and you use a timer to show when you pulled up, there's a limit on that. In the UK, having to make your way through streets of traffic to get to some miserable car park in the rain, pay for the privilege, then trudge around the shops finding only the things you: a) don't want, b) want at a reasonable price, which they didn't provide, you give up, go home, and buy the thing online in comfort.

    I still go grocery shopping by driving to the shops, because frankly it's fun to make impulse food and booze purchases, and the larger shops usually have free parking anyway.

  11. photobod

    As with most things, the public gets the high street it deserves

    Fed up with the high street? Blame most of the problems on the majority of shoppers and local councils.

    Limited choice of goods? It's because most people tend to buy a very limited range of stuff. If you try to run a shop with a large and varied stock, you'll soon discover that most of it just sits there until it's' too old to sell. That's very expensive, both in terms of lost stock value and also in terms of the space to keep it and display it.

    Higher prices than online? It's not rocket science, people. 1-1 staffing costs a lot more per sale than an automated form. Bricks and mortar shops cost loads more in rent/rates/maintenance than a virtual store, too.

    Crazy travel and parking charges? Local councils have used the high street as a cash cow for decades, gradually squeezing until there's just no more blood left in the stone. Take a look at the number of empty shops. There's a reason for that, and it's about income vs expenditure. No profit=no shops.

    You want a better high street? It's gonna be tough. High streeet rents need to be decimated. For that to happen, there needs to be a virtual death of the high street to persuade landlords to be more realistic. Rates aren't so much of a problem, truthfully, but parking restrictions are. The only way that will change is if the local population make it politically unacceptable for councils to screw the high street every time they need money. Truthfully, they simply won't be able to for much longer anyway, so they're gonna have to get used to the idea pretty soon.

    Out of town shopping centres. Councils make it easy and cheap for these to be set up, provide easy parking and low costs. Then fill them up with low-choice, low cost boxshifters. Then are surprised that the traditional high street shops give up when faced with a playing field that isn't so much level as inclined like the side of a mountain.

    Ask anyone who owns or runs a high street shop.

    1. Nuke

      @photobod - Re: As with most things, the public gets the high street it deserves

      Wrote :- "Crazy travel and parking charges? Local councils have used the high street as a cash cow for decades, gradually squeezing until there's just no more blood left in the stone. Take a look at the number of empty shops."

      But there seems to be blood left, because the car parks are still full. A lot of it is by the workers in nearby offices - possibly those above the shops, or in the ground floor of what used to be shops. We have become an "Office Economy".

      I used to live near a small parade of shops which had a lay-by right outside - obviously the planners meant it for shoppers to stop in. But every day it was full by 8am and the same cars remained there all day, every day. No doubt some cars were the shop workers themselves.

  12. Nuke

    Saving High Streets

    Two things that could be done with high streets :

    1) Certain types of shops should become brand showrooms rather than general retailers. At present some shops complain that people come in to view their stuff, then go home and order it on-line from somewhere cheaper. So (eg) Hotpoint could have a showroom for their white goods, which you could buy in the shop, or you could go home and order on-line and Hotpoint benefit anyway. Apple already uses this business model.

    2) Smaller towns should pedestrianise their high streets (with rain canopies over at least the shop fronts) making them a mall. The road should be diverted to run parallel to the high street (maybe both sides), 100-200 yds behind the shops and the area between (usually yards and slums) cleared for a free car park with paths through to the high street. Calidicot near me has done this (look at Google satellite view, "Caldicot" puts you spot on :- Jubilee Way and Woodstock Way by-pass thehigh street).

    Trouble with (2) is that shopkeepers have always squealed that they will be ruined if cars can't stop in the high street, but there are double yellow lines in most high streets anyway, and people have now become used the the mall concept. I don't know how they work this out; in Chepstow (my nearest town) last visit there were about 500 cars in the car parks and just one parked (illegally) in the high street whose driver came out of a shop with just a newspaper. On the contrary I avoid going to Monmouth (another nearby town) because I dislike the fact that cars are using its very narrow (in places) high street.

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