[Dave Birch] In case anyone wants to pop in and say hello (or “you don’t know what you’re talking about” or something similar) I’ll be at the Internet Retailer show in London. I’m giving the keynote presentation in the Payments and Strategy track at 9am, talking about what’s happening in online payments and what’s likely to happen over the next couple years.

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It should be interesting, since UK online sales are going to double by 2010 and the more sales, the more payments. The UK has had a perfect storm of high card penetration and high broadband penetration. As a these articles point out, British shoppers do seem to be making more use of the internet than consumers on the continent. Last year UK buyers spent an average of £875 on the web. That compares with £734 for second-placed Denmark, £405 for sixth-placed Germany and £254 by the average French shopper, according to the European Interactive Advertising Agency.

I have to say, though, that I’m not sure if broadband and credit cards are the sole explanation. I agree with Peter Cochrane, who told me a few years ago that he thought that UK online retailing would grow faster than US online retailing, not because UK online retailing is fantastic but because UK offline retailing is rubbish. In the US, if you want to buy a widget then you stop off at the widget shop, park right outside, nip in and get your widget from someone who wants to sell you one and then go. In the UK, if you want to buy a widget then you’ve got to find somewhere to park (and get charged a fortune for it), walk miles to the widget shop and then be ignored by the bored teenage assistant who, in any case, knows nothing about widgets. As the old saying about shopping in the US vs. shopping in the UK goes, I’d rather to be told to have a nice day by someone who doesn’t mean it than to f— off by someone who does.

Addendum.. By coincidence, the headline in this morning’s Metro was about internet retailing, but from a different angle: internet retailed is killing the high street. It has a couple of useful figures for context: total internet sales in the UK last year were £8.2 billion, total high street sales fell (for the first time in 20 years) down to £122.3 billion.


  1. While I agree about the ease of the process of shopping in the US, the “bored teenage assistant” in the US is generally just as clueless (albeit nicer about it) as the ones in the UK, I’m certain.
    When the wife and I walk into the local electronics stores to buy boards for the computers or whatever ‘widget’ we need this week, she inevitably ends up correcting a salesman who is trying to make a sale to another customer. If I didn’t have her with me, I wouldn’t trust a one of them to be able to help me find what I wanted.
    The reason I still make the trek to the local “Power Center” is that age old need to touch whatever it is I’m looking for, before I buy it; and that I generally need whatever it is right now, not a week from now. I buy a lot of stuff online, when I’ve planned ahead and I’m making purchases in advance.
    When planning fails, or the widget just breaks, the ease of the process gets me out in the car. That, and getting to watch the wife make some teenage assistant’s life a momentary hell.

  2. I noticed the following article in Finextra. Does this mean the end of virtual universes?
    Or does this mean that Virtual universe needs to come into the real world?
    Virtual universe Second Life suffers real world security breach:
    The creators of Second Life, a virtual world where people play out fantasy lives online, has asked all players to change their passwords after a hacker breached a database containing their real-world personal data – including names and addresses, passwords and payment data.
    Linden Lab, the San Francisco company behind Second Life, says the database breach potentially exposed data including the unencrypted names and addresses, and the encrypted passwords and encrypted payment information of all 650,000 Second Life players.
    The company says unencrypted credit card information, which is stored on a separate database, was not compromised.
    The breach was discovered on 6 September and in an e-mail sent on 8 September Linden Lab informed all Second Life members about the problem and told them to request a new password

  3. “The reason I still make the trek to the local “Power Center” is that age old need to touch whatever it is I’m looking for, before I buy it”
    I feel very guilty about this, but we go into the shops to see which dishwasher (or whatever) we want, and then go homeand order it on the Internet anyway. It’s not sustainable. I’m sure it’s why Alders went bust!

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