I admit to infidelity of the virtual kind. Flirting with too-good-to-miss online deals, picking up new and niche retailers (much to my bank balance’s dismay) and often following online discounts all the way (back to their) homes websites with a single click on a tantalisingly titled link.

So when Vogue announced the launch of this year’s Online Fashion Week on December 3, the internet shopping fanatic within me received an early jolt of excitement, usually experienced on Christmas morning whilst present unwrapping.

For those of you who caught up with the Real Fashion Weeks online, I’m not talking about the fake FROW-ing from the comfort of your desk chair , but in fact, the five day bash that celebrates the best fashion and fantastic deals available to online shoppers, making it possible to pick that perfect Stella McCartney dress minus the overbearing, sale-hungry, and, in some cases, frighteningly snobbish sales assistant breathing down your neck!

As much as I enjoy landing a fash-tastic online purchase and often indulge in more virtual retail therapy than is financially healthy, the return of OFW 2012 did make me ask this: what about the physical, hands-on experience of shopping, especially during the festive season, that an initiative such OFW is responsible for nearly eradicating?

OK, to some this may seem a little exaggerated; a sweeping statement of sorts, but OFW is after all a celebration of our devotion to the invisible-but-overflowing shopping basket. Online shopping does have its plus points: the best deals are usually found here and, more often than not, you’re likely to find your size in a particular item you’ve unsuccessfully tried to track down in store – especially where fashion collaborations are concerned. There’s also the lack of arduous changing room queues, no clueless sales assistants to contend with and a healthy avoidance of shopper-induced rage that comes with the pushing and shoving involved in nabbing that pair of must-have Wang-esque Zara boots.

But do you think that our increasing affinity for shopping in our pyjamas whilst chomping on toast with the-night-before-hair is making us lose sight of the sensory process involved in shopping in store; touching fabrics, assessing cut and colour or trying on a never before considered alternative? It’s even more interesting when e-shoppers decide to undertake online beauty shop-athons (a far more riskier feat than clothes shopping!) and click home new products, pigments and scents they’d otherwise dodge at the department store counter.

With recent damning reports that online retailers are ‘killing off’ bricks and mortar stores and the beloved high street, I, with intense pangs of cyber-induced guilt, do fear for myself. I do. Desensitisation to the in-store shopping experience may leave me shopping buddy-less and bag-less, but it is worth considering the effects of the tangible element of shopping, which, alongside offering town centre stores a lifeline, may help us to become more purchase-conscious and less visually driven – especially where fashion garments are concerned; modelled on incredibly tall and thin women who make tie-dye jeans and peplum seem like a good idea. For me, they weren’t.

What are your views on online vs. in-store shopping? Does the click make you tick, or are you a seasoned store hopper? Share your thoughts below!

[Image: Guardian]

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