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In store versus online shopping

When looking to buy goods there are several things you will want to consider, one of which will be whether to buy the goods online or instore, with both having their own benefits. Below you’ll find a list of benefits and drawbacks for each which should help you decide which method is best for you.

Buying in store


  • Inspect; You have the chance to inspect the goods or try them before you buy. This gives you the opportunity to decide whether they are suitable and you more likely to notice if something is faulty.
  • Convenience; You will usually get to take the goods away immediately, this can be convenient if the item is something that you quickly.
  • Face to face; If you have any problems, you’re able to go back to the store to speak with the trader face to face, this means that you can negotiate with them directly to try and resolve the problem quickly.


  • Returns; If you change your mind, there’s no automatic right to return goods. Some traders may allow you to return the goods for an exchange or refund, but this is their own policy and not a legal requirement.
  • Payments; Traders aren’t required to accept specific payment methods, so when you buy in store, they may be less likely to accept payment by credit or debit card. This means less protection if something goes wrong.
  • Impulse buys; Some stores especially supermarkets have developed tactics to encourage you to spend more money while in the store, this includes displaying small value items at the till.

Buying online


  • Convenience; One of the main benefits of shopping online is convenience. You can shop at any time of the day or night without leaving your home and you can visit multiple websites in a short space making it easier to shop around to find the best price.
  • Cheaper; Some online traders might charge less than what you would pay in store this is usually because they have lower overheads. Some may also offer online only discounts, but you should always check what the cost of delivery will be.
  • Returns; When you buy goods online you have 14 days to return them for a full refund (you may have to cover the return postage costs). There are some types of goods where this doesn’t apply which includes goods that have been made to order, online games or apps, items were there could be an issue of hygiene such as underwear or earrings and anything that has a short life span such as flowers or food.
  • Payment; Traders are more likely to accept payment by credit card, debit card or PayPal, this can give you extra protection if something goes wrong. For more information see what’s the best way to pay a trader.


  • Delivery; You should always check what the trader’s timescale for delivery is. Unless the trader has specified that you’ll receive the goods by a certain date then they have up to 30 days to deliver them to you, this might not be convenient if you need something quickly.
  • Overseas traders; If you buy something from an online trader who isn’t based in the UK, then it can be more difficult to get problems fixed. You should always check that there is a postal address on the website so that you know where the trader is based, domain names don’t guarantee the trader is based in the UK.
  • Counterfeit; As you can’t inspect the goods before purchase there can be higher risk of buying counterfeit goods. If you haven’t ordered from a trader before its best practice to check for reviews from previous customers and to pay using a credit or debit card so that you’ll have additional protection if something goes wrong.
Last updated: 18 July 2019

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