Stores home in on armchair shoppers

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The Independent Online
Home-shopping, trumpeted many times but never realised, is finally taking off.

With very little advertising or marketing, the home-shopping television channel QVC is attracting 30,000 new customers every month. From this week, shoppers will be able to buy toothpaste and shampoo without leaving their armchairs as Boots becomes the first high street retailer to sell via interactive television.

Safeway has just announced that it is to launch a new type of home-shopping service to appeal to the more than 20 million home-shoppers who now spend nearly pounds 10bn each year.

The number of retailers offering the convenience of shopping from home will triple by 2000, according to Deloitte & Touche, the accountancy firm, as consumer visionaries use the Internet, catalogues and television to build an all-encasing web with which they can maximise their sales.

Their targets are not only those too lazy or intimidated to brave a shopping centre, but high-spending professionals who are too busy to stand in a queue, or lug bags of shopping to and from their cars. These customers are among the 4.5 million who have already opted for one of the most popular developments of the home-shopping era: telephone banking, operated by companies such as First Direct.

In the supermarkets, rather than pushing a trolley around a store, Safeway customers who hold a loyalty card will soon be able to pre-order their everyday household goods by phone or fax. The Collect & Go scheme involves giving customers a ready-made personalised shopping list which will be updated weekly as well as a catalogue featuring more than 3,000 top-selling household and grocery goods.

Some gurus of the retail industry believe that within a few years home- shopping could be in a position to rival the more traditional high-street or superstore.

Their claims have been boosted by the news that Marks & Spencer will introduce a catalogue by next spring, through which M&S hopes to achieve sales estimated at pounds 500m within three years.