All shops given permission to offer click and collect

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Ministers have promised to allow all shops to offer a click and collect service from next month.

Stores will no longer have to apply for planning permission at a cost of £195 in order to offer the facility. The change comes in on April 15.

"Far from threatening the high street, online shopping offers a new opportunity. How we shop is changing radically and I want to help our high streets thrive from online competition," says planning minister Brandon Lewis.

"These measures will mean even more retailers can offer 'click and collect' services, encouraging shoppers to visit their businesses and pick up their purchases at a time that suits them."

Click and collect was the surprise winner over the Christmas period, with half of John Lewis customers, for example, opting to pick up their shopping in store rather than trust to delivery services. Some retailers have also installed lockers to allow Amazon and eBay customers to pick up their purchases there.

The UK's now the biggest user of click and collect, according to Planet Retail: a third of online shoppers in the UK have used the service to pick up their goods, compared with 13% in the US and 5% in Germany.

But, says analyst John Mercer of Mintel, there's a long way to go. "Click-and-collect will make up less than 2% of all retail sales this year. Further innovations such as more click-and-collect hubs and drive-through services can offer the convenience that shoppers are demanding," he says.

Customers appear to be using click and collect most when it comes to clothing and footwear, although Verdict Research predicts that it will become popular for groceries too.

Sainsbury's is now in the process of rolling out click and collect to 100 stores by the end of the year; and Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury's are working with Transport for London to put refrigerated lockers in London Underground car parks for collections.

But ministers hope that scrapping the planning requirement will mean that local high streets can benefit too.

"High streets contribute billions of pounds to the economy and we know digital is the way forward so it is vitally important traders and town centres keep up with the way people shop if they are to continue to thrive," says high streets minister Penny Mordaunt.

" We want to future proof our high streets so they can remain at the heart the community for decades to come."

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