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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Online grocers fail to net rural pound
Online shopping graphic
Research carried out by BBC Wales's Social Affairs Correspondent Gail Foley shows that despite a growth in internet users, shopping online has it limits for those living in rural Wales.

Studies show that only 15% of the population in Wales use the internet regularly.

Tesco is one of the only major supermarket chain which claims that it is actively seeking to expand into more rural areas in Wales.

The north Wales-based chain Iceland says it covers 95% of Wales while Sainsbury's only offer home deliveries in Cardiff.

Asda and Somerfield do not offer the service at all.

Living half way up a mountain in Gwynedd is no bar to Helen Owen's enthusiasm for internet shopping.

Somewhat of a internet shopping pioneer, Helen orders online from Tesco each week.

With two school age children, she says it is easier and quicker than travelling ten miles to the store.

"To do the weekly shop would be nearly a 30-mile round trip," she explained.

Helen Owen checks off her Tesco delivery
Helen Owen checks off her Tesco delivery

"So it's really time-saving and when you've got children, it's just the convenience of it more than anything.

"Working full time, it's great to get things delivered to the doorstop rather than take a whole Saturday morning, just to get the weekly shopping."

She insists that a 5 delivery charge and the inability to browse should not be seen as deterrents.

"In a way the inability to browse can be good as you tend to pick up an awful lot of things that you don't really need," she added.

"Where as when you've got your list of favourites saved in the computer you tend to just go for the basics and a couple of extra things."

Tesco claim that the service they provide for Helen is available to 88% of the Welsh population from 13 stores stretching from Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire to Wrexham and Bangor in the north.

People hear horror stories about credit card details being stolen and that puts them off

Dr Andew Blyth, University of Glamorgan
"The reason for rural shortfall - The cost of distribution," said Dr Andrew Blyth of the University of Glamorgan.

"If I go online and order food from Tescos that has to be distributed to me and has to be provided by a distribution network.

"That distribution network has to be catered for and provided for. As you go out into the rural communities, that distribution network becomes geographically dispersed.

"The distance between one supermarket between another increases and, therefore, the cost of providing the goods from the supermarket to the customer increases."

And Dr Blyth believes that the issue of security could still be leaving people feeling a little cautious.

"I think it does concern people, certainly the feedback we get when we talk to customers, they're worried about providing their credit card details online," he said.

"If you look at the companies like Amazon and Yahoo, they take security seriously.

Spar owner Karen Williams
Karen Williams has begun an e-mail delivery service

"The problem is a lot of companies are rushing to get online and engage electronic commerce and they're just not taking simple security precautions.

"People hear horror stories about credit card details being stolen and that puts them off. But that isn't set in context - think about the number of transactions that take place that are not fraudulent."

In some parts of the country, the idea of home deliveries coming back into fashion is greeted with bemusement.

The local Spar in Pwllheli, ran a fleet of delivery cans until quite recently when all but two were pensioned off when shoppers flocked to new stores.

But there e-mail shopping is tightening its grips.

Boat owners moored in the marina can now tap in their order and have it delivered direct to their mooring.

"I think the internet is something we will have to move on eventually," she said.

"There seems to be a move back to deliveries. People working long hours now and they don't have the time to do their shopping.

"At the end of the day, internet shopping is handy."

BBC Wales's Gail Foley reports
"Online shopping has yet to take off in rural Wales"
BBC Wales's Gail Foley
"Concerns about confidentiality and financial security are putting some shoppers off"
See also:

19 Jun 01 | Business
E-mail slips as web use grows
20 Jun 01 | Business
Net police fail online shoppers
09 Apr 01 | Business
The billion pound grocer
13 Mar 01 | Business
Half of online stores 'break law'
03 Jan 01 | Business
E-shopping wins customer approval
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