Is Your Very Own Virtual High Street Too Farfetched?

One day soon, your personal high street will follow you around, from one electronic device to another, trying to tempt you to buy something. I wonder who the shops’ landlords will be?
Farfetch.com the curated (the FT’s fantastic use of the word!) online marketplace for independent fashion boutiques, is to step up its international expansion plans following an $18 million venture capital investment. The London-based company announced on Monday that it had secured new funding from Index Ventures and eVenture Capital Partners, alongside existing investors Advent Venture Partners.
With recent changes in retail sentiment, and announcements of high street store closures piling up like dirty dishes in my kitchen, we may well have reached the end of the beginning of the networked era. The early adopters have been satiated and now everyone wants some of it. Online shopping is clearly here to stay and it appears to be just about to cross Geoffrey A Moore’s famed “chasm” (he wrote Crossing the Chasm, a seminal book about the adoption of new ideas).
Who knows how retail will develop from here? Well, although venture capitalists may play a bit of a portfolio game they are smart enough to look ahead and this online marketplace seems to have convinced them of its potential. VCs may have a wavy stick, but it often points in something approximating the right direction. OK, $18m isn’t a lot of risk capital, but my guess is that it’s symbolic of much bigger money going in this direction.
Big high street brands are hoping that they can survive the forthcoming rebalancing, from mostly bricks to mostly clicks. Or will our legacy (another brilliant word repurposed for the internet age) retailers’ legacy leases drag them down before they can work out what to do, as they have for several of them already. With over 1000 stores planned to close in the UK alone over the next few years, town centres are soon going to become ghost towns.
Perhaps commercial property folk need to build a few virtual high streets too, just like our friends at Farfetch.com, or face a very different future.
Farfetched?  I don’t think so.
Mark
P.S. don’t get these guys mixed up with farfetched.com – they sell silver.
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