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EDITORIAL AO, Naked Wines and THG report strong pandemic performances – but can it last as the UK starts to emerge from Covid-19?

Pureplays feature heavily among the retailers that are reporting strong figures and outlooks as they emerge from the latest – and perhaps the final – wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. The question now will be how retailers from AO to Naked Wines and THG succeed in retaining new-found customers now that shoppers are able to return to shops. All have in common that they believe the shift online was already coming before the pandemic and that its effects are now here to stay.

That said, footfall has been high this week – compared to last week, although still down on 2019 levels – and there are suggestions that online shopping levels are now somewhat down. Is that to be expected in the first flush of retail opening – and will it last? Those are the questions we’ll have in mind over the coming weeks and months. 

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we report as AO World says that acting quickly and decisively in the early days of the pandemic has helped it to grow sales of electricals by more than 60% in its latest financial year.

Naked Wines is benefiting from a still earlier strategic move away from multichannel retailing and towards pureplay selling. It’s pointing in particular to a 75% growth in US sales – which makes that market the biggest for the UK-based retailer. 

THG had a double gain over the last year. Not only did customers shop more online for the nutrition, beauty and fashion products that its brands sell, but other brands now serving a growing army of online shoppers are now using THG’s technology to help build their own digital businesses. 

Ocado is another retailer with a technology arm – now powering grocery and other online sales for retailers in the UK and around the world. Today we’re reporting as it invests in autonomous deliveries – with a curb-to-kitchen robot and self-driving delivery vans both in prospect. Its retail partners are set to benefit from the innovation as and when the use cases are proved. 

Multichannel retailers Toolstation and Wickes have also performed strongly in lockdown 3.0, thanks to a combination of online capability and strong demand for DIY and trade building materials and equipment. Wickes is now on track to demerge from parent company Travis Perkins by the end of this month. 

In today’s guest comment, Lynne Capozzi of Acquia considers the who, what and where of personalised service. 

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