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Retail CIOs call for bigger IT budgets to boost stores in online fight

Modernise or go to the wall like JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure and Game

Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of UK CIOs working in retail want more technology in shops to help sales in the run-up to Christmas.

And CIOs working in other industries also see room for technology improvement in the retail industry, according to a study conducted among 500 UK CIOs across industry by market research firm Vanson Bourne.

Half of the CIOs surveyed named retail as the industry "most in need of a technological revolution".

The report found CIOs believing that the public sector (49 percent) and the heavy manufacturing industry (39 percent) could also stand to benefit from using more technology.

It is estimated the average weekly spend across all UK retail in September was £6.6 billion, with online stores picking up around £508 million a week. Retail CIOs in high street businesses reckon improved technology can help get some of this online cash back into their tills.

Mobile shopping apps, virtual fitting rooms and using social networking sites to influence purchasing decisions are seen as key for arming the high street against internet retailers.

Tony Grace, chief operating officer at Virgin Media Business, which commissioned the survey, said, "A multi-channel approach to attracting customers into stores and making them part with their cash is now a necessity for retailers. CIOs in the sector have clearly recognised this."

But the horse has already bolted for some high street retailers. Recent high street failures include JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and electronics retailer Comet is reportedly on the brink of calling in administrators. Last week Home Retail Group, the owner of the Argos and Homebase retail chains, said it was cutting the number of its stores as part of its plan to boost online sales.

The company said it was closing or relocating 75 Argos outlets and reducing its reliance on the Argos printed catalogue to generate sales. The move came after the group posted almost a 40 percent fall in first half pre-tax profits, despite having a pretty well established multi-channel sales strategy.

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