Retailers playing catch-up with online sales challenge
Many of Ireland's retailers are still struggling to keep up with consumers' online habits, according to an industry expert.
"I think some of the retailers haven't moved fast enough," said Eric Conway, a director at the Dublin office of international consulting group BearingPoint. "Now they're playing catch-up and they're struggling. The consumer is getting more used to purchasing online."
About 75pc of the €4.1bn spent online last year by Irish consumers was funnelled through international companies such as Amazon rather than going to domestic firms.
Mr Conway was speaking as a major new report published by BearingPoint found that the majority of firms across Europe are only paying lip-service to developing cross-channel commerce, where online sales options are completely integrated with a physical store network.
Fewer than one-quarter of companies surveyed in Europe have a clearly formulated strategy to develop cross-channel selling, even as more consumers migrate to the internet, the report adds.
"In this increasingly cut-throat market, retailers that succeed in delivering on the promise of cross-channel commerce might not only find the key to their own survival, but could also benefit from an increasingly promising future," according to the report, which was prepared by BearingPoint partner Kay Manke.
He warned that retailers that rely exclusively on footfall to drive sales are already "staring into the abyss".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Manke said that the retail landscape will change dramatically in the next five to 10 years.
"A new age of competitors might emerge that wouldn't even be identifiable today," he said. "Companies such as Google have access to a very high level of customer information. If they switch to a retail selling model, they have a huge advantage."
Mr Conway added that the Irish retail scene has seen a number of prominent firms get into trading difficulties or close in the recent past.
Clothing chain Awear has gone into receivership and, during the summer, Xtra-vision was sold to retail restructuring specialist Hilco.