By Maximilian Clarke

Consumers will spend an estimated £19.3 billion on mobile devices by 2021, up from £1.3bn today, new research from Barclays Corporate suggests.

Food and groceries will remain the largest purchases for consumers ‘on the go’, as the convenience of amending shopping lists, making payments and arranging delivery times via mobile leads to ever growing sales; ringing up sales of nearly £300 million for supermarkets and grocery stores this year. By 2021 this figure is expected to top £5 billion.

Electricals are the second most popular mobile purchase with £290 million due to be purchased via a smart phone or tablet this year. By 2021 sales are predicted to reach £2.1 billion but, the purchase of electrical goods will fall back in the rankings to fourth position, in value terms. Personal care, which includes hair care, beauty, dental and baby products will enjoy the strongest growth with m-commerce sales rising from £63 million in 2011 to £3.1 billion in ten years time.

M-commerce is still a relatively niche channel accounting for 0.5 percent of total retail spend,” commented Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays Corporate. “However, with little new shop space coming into play the real growth opportunities lie on the virtual high street and those retailers which are prepared to invest will be at a significant advantage to the competition”.

During the next five years m-commerce will enjoy growth of 55 percent, the fastest of any retail channel. This compares to expected growth of 8 percent for online sales and 1.6 percent for in-store sales. Mail order is expected to shrink by 1.2 percent. The growth of mobile sales will, in part, be driven by increases in smart phone penetration and technological improvements such as 4G and Near Field Communications. Total 2021 total retail sales are expected to be worth some £390 billion - m-commerce will account for 4.9 percent of sales.

Direct spend is only part of the picture with more than half of all consumers already using their mobile devices at one or more stages of the purchasing process, whether it be to research before buying, making price comparisons while browsing in store or actually making a purchase. For example Argos, Tesco, Asda and Next are among the ten most visited websites via mobile, but despite increases in the amount of money migrating online, this does not mean the end of the traditional high street. By 2021, more than three quarters of retail spend will still pass through tills.

Richard Lowe continued: “Stores have been the mainstay of retail for centuries and this is not about to change, particularly for those purchases which require a high-level of customer interaction such as clothing and footwear. The real value to be found in m-commerce is through its role as a multi-channel integrator and the indirect sales boost it generates by connecting physical stores with online”.

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