Choosing to buy online for the sake of our own convenience is costing local high street shops their business.


The problem has been gradually increasing, according to Shilpa Patel, who runs Eurosport - a long standing family-run sports shop. The shop has been established for 44 years, but since the rise of the internet, their charts have shown a noticeable drop in customer numbers.


Customers are becoming increasingly disconnected from their retailers. With the rise of online shopping, we risk losing the authenticity of a community shop where we build a relationship with the shopkeeper. While we used to rely on customer loyalty and honesty, checkbox terms and conditions and big brands have taken their place. However, these large companies cannot provide the same personal service found at places like Eurosport, where knowledgeable shopkeepers can give each customer detailed and tailored advice; and have the additional disadvantage of not being able to view any item beforehand.


As a result, not only are less people overall physically coming in to the shop, but even those who do take advantage of their services by visiting to try products for size or style, only so that they can order the same online for a more attractive cheaper price. “They come into our shop, try our swimwear, then but it online,” says Shilpa. “What can you do?” It’s difficult for the business to compete with online retail giants such as Amazon, thanks to the almost unlimited products they can offer, often at lower prices, and the convenience of home delivery. High costs of inconvenient parking and the hassle of making a trip to the shop discourage customers, especially the impatient and digitally hooked younger generations who crave quick, efficient and instantaneous service. “People find it just easier to go online, click, buy, deliver,” notes Shilpa, “On Amazon they have 60 white shoes; here we have 10. It’s 10-15% cheaper - we can’t do that as we pay a huge overhead.”


Unfortunately, these 'non-buyers' have become so frequent that Eurosport has had to stop offering its full refund policy of a full month, in order to safeguard against ‘serial offenders’ - informally referring to those who regularly buy, then return items. In the near future, changes like this might have an impact on the customer-shop relationship that has been so carefully nurtured over the decades.


Furthermore, the long standing tradition of a family run business is under threat: “We wish people knew more about our detailed history, and what we did. We’re a pretty traditional shop; we don’t sell anything online, we don’t have a website, we don’t participate in tenders - we don’t need to - because we provide a service. We don’t advertise; it’s just by word of mouth. My father started this [shop], as children we joined the business. The shop gave our [my brother and I] children education and homes.”


Family-run businesses also require immense dedication - they have the advantage of a more relaxed atmosphere, but having to put in very long hours makes it difficult for Shilpa and her brother to take time off work. “You have to be here on site all the time,” she says, “When you leave the door you still think about the job.”

But for Eurosports and its lucky surrounding community, their dedication pays off; and the results are extremely rewarding. “You’re walking around, and customers pop in to say hello… it’s a community shop because we’re so little. It carries on by customer loyalty. It’s all about giving and taking… people realise you’re trustworthy and they come back.” Despite many similar shops nearby being forced to close down, Eurosports considers itself fortunate to have survived. “We’re aiming for 50 years now,” Shilpa hopes, aiming at a milestone anniversary, “maybe 55.”


By Isabelle Ho