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Press release

Retailers need to get smarter about effects of online shopping

07 January 2014


Online shopping in the UK continued to grow this Christmas with 63 per cent of online shoppers ordering three or more gifts online, but engineers are warning this switch in shopping style needs to be considered as part of an integrated transport policy.

A survey carried for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) found that of the 2,011 adults surveyed, 1,518 were online shoppers.  Of these, 968 (63 per cent) had bought a minimum of three gifts online this Christmas.

The huge switch to online shopping, whilst possibly reducing car travel to the local shops could well be increasing transport emissions as more and more lorries take to the roads.

Prof Phil Blythe from the IET said: “The change from traditional shopping to online continues apace and this brings with it major shifts in transport patterns. We must consider how this will affect our transport infrastructure.

“Traditionally, consumers would travel to the local high street or retail park to buy gifts.  We are now seeing an explosion of online shopping, often where gifts are bought and delivered in many batches.  This then results in more deliveries being made and a huge increase in emissions and congestion on our roads.

“We’ve heard a lot about delivery by drones, but this is at least a decade away. With online shopping on the increase, traffic congestion and emissions will only rise.  We are calling on retailers to consider all this and get smarter about the impact of deliveries on our roads. We would encourage the use of smart logistics to minimise footprint or re-use a transport mode for these deliveries (such as a ‘post bus’) or using unused capacity in other delivery fleets.

“Perhaps there could be opportunities for retailers to encourage shoppers to ‘pool’ all their orders into one delivery thereby reducing the number of individual deliveries to the same address.  This trend is unlikely to change, however evidence suggests where people substitute a shopping or work car journey by an online one, activity does not necessarily reduce their car travel as they then make extra leisure journeys to maintain their social networks.”

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7595 400912
Email: rbeahan@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest organisations for engineers and technicians.  We have nearly 160,000 members in 127 countries around the world.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world. We inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.
  • The IET is the Professional Home for Life® for engineers and technicians, and a trusted source of Essential Engineering Intelligence® and thought leadership.