They're calling it "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
Nike's 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
people live and work - businesses can make dramatic savings in
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