The Internet, alongside out-of-town shopping, the major supermarkets and the wider economy, is a very obvious target when looking for a fall guy responsible for the decline of the retail industry in our inner cities and town centers. But is this fair?

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, in July 2013 the Internet accounted for less than 10 per cent of all retail sales. There is no doubt, the Internet represents a major challenge for the high street, but it is not solely or even significantly to blame for its current difficulties.

Instead of looking for blame, the question these businesses should be asking themselves is: Why should a high street business not move with the times and harness some of the amazing opportunities available to its high-tech counterparts?

I would personally argue that the Internet was not to blame for the demise of major high street chains like Woolworths or Comet, who left our high streets and retail parks (in the UK) with gaping holes and shuttered retail units. In fact, I believe the web could have offered both of these brands a significant lifeline, had they been more interested in competing in a digital age than defending a glorious past. It was complacency, poor management, a complete lack of agility (something that Internet brands definitely do not lack) and a general lack of direction that killed these high street behemoths. These were poor businesses living on borrowed time. The Internet and the weak economy simply put them out of their misery.

In the face of online competition, some businesses will struggle more than others.

It could be argued that the web disrupted the travel industry and forced the closure of numerous independent high street travel agents. Similarly, booksellers and record stores may also have fallen afoul of mighty online retailers and changes in technology. But using the same argument, the Internet has also significantly disrupted the gaming/gambling industry, with many bookmakers taking their businesses offshore and setting up online, and yet they continue to thrive on (and some would suggest are beginning to suffocate) the high street. Taking the ethical questions surrounding the gaming industry’s grip on the high street out of the equation, I would suggest the difference between success and failure was their ability to identify new business trends, attract new customers, drive new streams of revenue and take advantage of opportunities as and when they arrive (like the sudden availability of prime retail space at knockdown prices). Both the downturn and technology (alongside some clever and, arguably, aggressive marketing) have been good to the gambling industry.

Not all high street businesses can expect to survive in the digital age.

Others, however, will thrive, and this includes the very best independent, customer-focused travel agents, booksellers and record stores. I believe these successful companies will enhance their fortunes by adopting business strategies normally associated with their online competitors. This doesn’t mean they will simply transfer their business from a high street operation to an online enterprise (although many will develop a more forward-looking “clicks and mortar” business model). They will become more social, more customer-focused and more agile. In short, they will become better real world businesses.

Is competition from the Internet killing your business or has it opened up new opportunities for you to succeed? Share your comments below.