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SHIFTING SHOPPING HABITS: Online Shopping

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - More retail stores are starting to operate online. The National Retail Federation estimates online shopping transactions will increase between 8 and 12% by the end of this year. According to the NRF, nine of the top ten online retailers collaborate with its branded retail stores, using both outlets to better serve customers.

“I think department stores are in a death cycle,” said consumer watchdog Jerry Zivic.

Zivic is watching the retail industry change before his eyes. He explained it can be hard to find quality service while shopping in retail stores.

“I think you have a situation where they're so busy trying to save money that they're missing the big picture,” said Zivic.

Zivic believes more companies are trying to attract customers to make their purchases online by becoming more lenient with return policies and allowing customers to find a product online, to later pick it up in store.

“All of the major players have invested a lot of their resources in online and making it as easy as possible,” explained Zivic.

“They're certainly making it easier to shop online and to not have to spend the time and the gasoline and the cost to pick up these products,” said Serge Jorgensen, Founder of cyber security group Sylint.

Still, the National Retail Federation says less than 10%  of all transactions are placed online. Dr. Michael Snipes, Economics  Professor at the University of South Florida, said that number is so low because it takes into account things like haircuts and car washes.

“It’s something that has to be done in a traditional sense, it can't be done online,” explained Dr. Snipes.

Jorgensen believes many shoppers prefer not to take the risks associated with e-commerce.

“We are giving a ton of information to one or two or a small handful of commercial entities whose corporate mission is to make money on the information we're giving them,” explained Jorgensen.

Clothing brands like BCBG and bebe are closing all of its retail stores this year, including its Mall at University Town Center locations, to focus on e-commerce sales. Shoppers can buy items from those and select other brands on one website, and Jergensen believes customers take that safe road, giving them less of a chance of getting their personal information compromised.

“I think it's very easy to pick one online retailer, Amazon being a perfect example, and you can do all your shopping through them,” suggested Jorgensen.

Zivic believes many of the cons of shopping online are first world problems.

“There's almost too many choices sometimes. You're comparing this and you're comparing that and then you're comparing prices,” said Zivic.

Popular stores are also incorporating handheld technology to improve customers' shopping experience. National drugstore chain CVS is focusing on its smartphone app as a tool to bring customers back to the store. Other vendors like American Eagle are pushing shoppers to the app, sometimes offering discounts only if people buy through their mobile device.