Open High Street scheme to help shopkeepers compete

The developers of the “Open High Street” project, which is being trialled with small businesses and shoppers in Hereford, say it will “allow retailers and farm producers to compete online with the likes of M&S and Tesco” reports The Telegraph.

The site charges a flat commission of about 10pc to retailers and allows customers to have one shopping basket and a single delivery for all their high street shopping for £5.

Aby Handler, of Inzenka, the consultancy firm which is managing the project, said the aim was to build a “virtual high street”.

“It’s a platform for local businesses that can’t afford to run a website and allows customers to have the quality and service they get from independents at any time.”

He said although sites like Amazon’s marketplace allow independent shops to sell online easily, it can be an unsatisfying experience for buyers since “10 orders means 10 different deliveries”.

The long-term aim is to link up a logistics network that would allow shoppers to buy easily from independent stores anywhere in the UK.

Customers would also be able to browse online using a single search term and compare prices from local stores.

Retailers can continue to provide personal service using web chat and webcams, Mr Handler said. “It’s about making shopping as simple as possible for small businesses and consumers.”

However, the pilot scheme, which is being trialled by 10 Hereford independent retailers – including a bakery, a grocer and a butcher – is only open to local shoppers.

The project has been funded by £400,000 from the Government’s Technology Strategy Board and a further £400,000 from private sector backers including Unilever.

Mr Handler added: “When we go national we’d like to add a pick up service which could take your shoe repairs, dry cleaning and recycling when they deliver shopping.

“And we’d use the spare capacity of local deliveries. It all goes back to solving a logistics problem – making one journey instead of eight.”