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March 2013: The Economist
Mixing Bricks with Clicks

Some online retailers are venturing onto the high street.

Pure online retailers do not pay rent but their variable costs eat up much of that advantage, says Sophie Albizua of eNova Partnership, a consultancy. Without storefronts to lure in customers they shell out to buy ads linked to Google search results. Delivery, especially of bulky goods, is a headache. Couriers show up at empty houses, and fees often fail to cover the full cost. Shoppers return a quarter or more of clothing they buy, another big expense.

All this looks easier if you have real shops. With “click and collect” customers can order with, say, a smartphone but pick up the item at a convenient outlet. Often, they linger to shop more. Britons pick up something extra about 40% of the time, says Ms Albizua.
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