A watershed for the web?

‘It comes down to the foot traffic,’ says Future Shop’s Elliot Chun of the shift in retailing brought on by online shopping. (Katie Wright/Toronto Observer)

According to Federal Express Canada, 55 per cent of holiday shoppers will be purchasing their gifts online this season. They say it is a 10 per cent increase from the last Christmas season.

East York resident Chelsea Dallaway, 24, does the majority of her shopping online. The biggest online purchase she ever made is a laptop computer, and she spends much of her time looking for jewelry, clothing, electronic devices and personalized items such as calendars and blankets.

Dallaway says she finds better deals online than in stores, with the advantage of avoiding the crowded malls and long lineups around the holidays.

“I can work it with my hectic work schedule and there’s more availability. I can also check prices more efficiently online,” she said.

Elliot Chun, communications manager for Best Buy Canada and Future Shop, believes that the option for customers to shop online is beneficial to the companies.

“At Future Shop we’ve been putting a lot of effort into the company financially,” Chun said, “as well as the execution of our web offerings to customers. So we’ve been really ramping up that area.”

Chun said they offered the same Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals online that they had in stores over the weekend.

“Cyber Monday is web-only and we saw tremendous growth there…. We had over a million Canadians visiting us that day,” Chun said.

But in terms of jobs, if people are primarily shopping primarily online, then not as many sales associates aren’t needed within the stores.

“There is a bit of a shift happening there,” Chun said. “In terms of our hiring efforts this year, there was a slight decrease and part of that was because of our big efforts we’re making on the web. It comes down to the foot traffic both physically in our stores and virtually to our website and we use those two benchmarks to determine how to hire.”

On the other hand, some staff members are required to help with the expanding web demand.

“We have hired a lot of full-time staff to join the e-commerce team, so we’ve actually added over 1,000 people just for the holiday season to help us through our e-commerce effort,” Chun said. “We want to make sure that when people are shopping… they’re being well serviced and we’ve got the staff to support that.”

This big transition of going to the web before the store seems to be the better choice for those like Dallaway, who say they can’t stand the long lines and the aggravation they cause.