They're calling it shops or "S-Commerce" and it's being rolled out in
cities and towns nationwide.

"It's a real revelation," according to Malcolm Fosbury, a middleware
engineer from Hillingdon. "You just walk into one of these shops and they
have all sorts of things for sale." Fosbury was particular impressed by a
clothes shop he discovered while browsing in central London. "Shops seem
to be the ideal medium for transactions of this type. I can actually try
out a jacket and see if it fits me. Then I can visualize the way I would
look if I was wearing the clothing." This is possible using a high
definition 2D viewing system, or "mirror" as it has become known.

Shops, which are frequently aggregated into shopping portals or "high
streets", are becoming increasingly popular with the cash-rich time-poor
generation of new consumers. Often located in densely populated areas
people can find them extremely convenient. And Malcolm is not alone in
being impressed by shops. "Some days I just don't have the time to
download huge Flash animations of rotating trainers and then wait five
days for them to be delivered in the hope that they will actually
fit," says Sandra Bailey, a systems analyst from Chelsea. "This way I can
actually complete the transaction in real time and walk away with the

Being able see whether or not shoes and clothing fit has been a real bonus
for Bailey, "I used to spend my evenings boxing up gear to
return. Sometimes the clothes didn't fit, sometimes they just sent the
wrong stuff." Shops have a compelling commercial story to tell too,
according to Gartner Group retail analyst Carl Baker.

"There are massive efficiencies in the supply chain. By concentrating
distribution to a series of high volume outlets in urban centres-typically
close to where people live and work-businesses can make dramatic savings
in fulfillment costs. Just compare this with the wasteful practise of
delivering items piecemeal to people's homes."

Furthermore, allowing consumers to receive goods when they actually want
them could mean an end to the frustration of returning home to find a
despatch notice telling you that your goods are waiting in a delivery
depot the other side of town.

But it's not just the convenience and time-saving that appeals to Fosbury,
"Visiting a shop is real relief for me. I mean as it is I spend all day in
front of a computer."