They're calling it shops or `S-Commerce' and it's being rolled out in cities and towns nationwide.
"It's a real revelation," according to Malcolm Fosbury, a middleware engineer from Hillingdon. "You just walk into one of these "shops" and they have all sorts of things for sale."
Fosbury was particularly impressed by a clothes shop he discovered while browsing in central London. "Shops seem to be the ideal medium for transactions of this type. I can actually try out a jacket and see if it fits me. Then I can visualize the way I would look if I was wearing the clothing." This is possible using a high definition 2D viewing system, or "mirror" as it has become known.
Shops, which are frequently aggregated into shopping portals or "high streets", are becoming increasingly popular with the cash- rich time-poor generation of new consumers. Often located in densely populated areas people can find them extremely convenient.
And Malcolm is not alone in being impressed by shops. "Some days I just don't have the time to download huge Flash animations of rotating trainers and then wait five days for them to be delivered in the hope that they will actually fit," says Sandra Bailey, a systems analyst from Chelsea. "This way I can actually complete the transaction in real time and walk away with the goods." Being able see whether or not shoes and clothing fit has been a real bonus for Bailey, "I used to spend my evenings boxing up gear to return. Sometimes the clothes didn't fit, sometimes they just sent the wrong stuff."
Shops have a compelling commercial story to tell too, according to Gartner Group retail analyst Carl Baker. "There are massive efficiencies in the supply chain. By concentrating distribution to a series of high volume outlets in urban centres-typically close to where people live and work-businesses can make dramatic savings in fulfillment costs. Just compare this with the wasteful practise of delivering items piecemeal to people's homes."
Furthermore, allowing consumers to receive goods when they actually want them could mean an end to the frustration of returning home to find a despatch notice telling you that your goods are waiting in a delivery depot the other side of town. But it's not just the convenience and time-saving that appeals to Fosbury, "Visiting a shop is real relief for me. I mean as it is I spend all day in front of a bloody computer."
from Benjamin Gill, Information & Research, P-Four Consultancy Ltd, TEL: (44) 0171 924 3233, FAX: (44) 0171 978 5304, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org