By Max Clarke

‘The high street is at risk:’ with more and more consumers turning to the internet, retailers must act now to attract business, says ‘big four’ professional services firm PwC following a survey of over 1,000 consumers.

The research, entitled Pick ‘n’ Mix — meeting the demands of the new multi-channel shopper, shows how internet shopping has moved from being used occasionally to become routine, with 14% of people now buying on the web more once than once a week, compared to only 4% in 2007, while nearly one in five respondents say they are spending more than half of their disposable income online.

Online fashion in particular has exploded in popularity, with the sector witnessing growth of 152% at a time when retail as a whole has seen a contraction.

“Nobody needs reminding that the retail industry is facing a tough time and will continue to do so for some time yet,” commented Mark Hudson, UK retail and consumer leader at PwC. “Profiting from the acceleration of the uptake in multi-channel shopping merely adds to the list of challenges: as consumer needs change at a faster pace, greater flexibility to continually alter and adapt business models will be increasingly critical.

Puneeta Mongia, retail strategy and report author highlights what retailers must do in order to survive:

“The winners will be the retailers that are most tuned to their customers’ changing needs, and have the technology and organisational control to get customers the products they want, when they want and in the ways they want to shop.”

“There is also a real challenge here for retailers - our data shows that despite the fact there are now more opportunities for consumers to shop, it’s not prompting them to spend more than they did before. Consumers are instead consolidating their spending with their favourite multi-channel retailers — meaning being a ‘favourite brand’ will become increasingly important, and that those without multi-channel propositions may well lose out.