The Midsummer Retail Report by commercial property group Colliers found that unsustainable business models, growing competition and environmental concerns are likely to spell an end to free delivery and returns for online sellers, which could cause them to lose market share.
Colliers reported that the Scottish Government could take this opportunity to support a new retail model, for instance, imposing restrictions on delivery firms, which would further support struggling high streets.
The property group found that plans to curb delivery spending are in the pipeline at major e-commerce groups, with Asos looking at blacklisting “serial returners” and Zalando, Europe’s largest online fashion site, revealing plans to introduce delivery fees. Fashion stalwart Next has already phased out free returns of items ordered online.
Colliers said that new constraints on online retailers’ ability to “poach” customers would be good news to brick and mortar operations.
It also added that some stores are now using advanced location planning to boost footfall and successfully compete with e-commerce sites.
John Duffy, director on the retail team at Colliers in Scotland, said: “Attitudes are changing and it is easy to see a time in the not too distant future when delivery firms face extra taxes or restrictions.
“This could make Scotland a test bed for a new retail model, and it will be interesting to see what knock-on effect this has on the traditional high streets and shopping centres.”
He added that Edinburgh and Glasgow remain the two bright spots in Scottish retail and leases are still climbing.
Ross Wilkie, a director and retail expert at Colliers in Scotland, said it was unclear what effect a scaling back of deliveries might have on the warehousing sector, as this was already being affected by uncertainty over Brexit.
He said: “Although footfall is down and consumers are not spending with much enthusiasm at the moment, there are retailers that are looking to expand albeit on a selective basis.
“These companies tend to use advanced Location Planning to find the right spot - both from a point of view of the surrounding demographics but also for the purposes of negotiating leases. With these tactics, some retailers seem to be successfully taking on the online sellers.”