Friday, 2 October 2009

Shopping gets even more virtual

So Fashionista is overjoyed that Zara and H&M have seen the light and realised that having an on-line presence is to quote Pablo Isla, Inditex's chief executive and deputy chairman, "an important strategic step for the group" (as reported in Retail Week 18 September 2009). However, it seems that for those retailers who are not yet on-line (yes, amazingly they do still exist) all is not lost – well, at least not if you are located on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Leicester Square and Bond Street anyway!

For those fortunately placed retailers, even if they do not have their own on-line presence, they can still dip their toe in the water (virtually, of course) and become part of a "virtual high street" that the New West End Company plans to launch in November. These particular streets of London will be replicated so that shoppers can stroll through computer simulations of them, click into their favourite stores and see what is being sold and for how much – all from the comfort of their armchairs. Unfortunately it doesn’t enable Fashionista to make actual purchases from the site, but it will hopefully minimise the amount of time Fashionista has to spend shuffling her way through the overcrowded streets of the West End searching for that last perfect gift for Auntie Flo.

The virtual West End will apparently be so life-like that the virtual streets will have virtual buses running down them – (does that mean Fashionista can still be virtually run over whilst being distracted by the gorgeous xmas window displays?) and it will even show the real weather (which Fashionista could have lived without to be honest!).

M&S, Liberty, American Apparel and John Lewis have already signed up to participate and it is thought by some that it could transform online shopping given that shoppers will be able to browse an entire high street, rather than having to go to the individual stores website (as reported in the Times 28 September 2009).

Fashionista is still not totally convinced that shoppers would not just prefer to skip the pain of xmas shopping altogether by sticking to those stores who have transactional websites so they do not have to venture out of their homes at all (step forward Scrooge!). However, for those shoppers who still love to pound the pavement, are planning a trip to London from overseas or who want to shop in a particular store which doesn't yet have an on-line presence, Fashionista thinks it sounds like a virtually perfect idea.