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EDITORIAL As retail continues to transform in response to Covid-19, what effect might a vaccine have?

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It’s too soon to see what news of a Covid-19 vaccine that seems likely to be effective will have on retail – though it was notable that the share prices of some online retailers were in decline yesterday. For us, the big question on what happens to retail will be whether online habits acquired during the lockdown will persist or fall away in the future. 

Covid-19 changed the way that shoppers buy as it changed the way that we worked and lived. We’ll be watching now to see if we go back to ‘normal’, or whether some of the change will persist. The working expectation, however, is that the industry has moved online faster than it would otherwise have done – but that the online shift was at heart inevitable and is now unlikely to revert to a pre-pandemic level. In the meantime, retailers have adapted to a much more online way of operating, expanding delivery fleets and rethinking the size of store estates. It seems unlikely that many will go back to where they were when a vaccine is finally available – rather, we’d expect that retailers will continue to focus on profitable and well-placed stores at the heart of digital channels that enable shoppers to buy in the way they want to. 

In today’s InternetRetailing we’re reporting on what the latest retail sales figures from the BRC and Barclaycard say about how shoppers are buying online. We’re also reporting on how the BRC is bringing together retailers to work towards zero emissions by 2040 in order to combat climate change.

We report on the effect of a second England lockdown on retail store visits and how retailers are responding to make it easier for shoppers to order online for fast delivery or collection. 

The effect of the pandemic in moving retail online has meant that more Christmas shopping is expected to take place over the internet this year. IMRG and the Centre for Retail Research and Vouchercodes both have forecasts on how big peak shopping will be this year. 

Meanwhile, the effect of Covid-19 can be seen on retailers including Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which has gone into administration, in part because of the role the pandemic played in keeping its customers at home, and on Clarks, which has agreed new majority ownership in return for £100m investment as it works to survive and then thrive in a digital future. The latest footfall figures show the effect lockdown 2.0 is having on stores – and how resourceful retailers are looking to new digital ways of getting around that effect.

Adidas is showing that its direct-to-consumer sales are rising, but its wholesale business is still down compared to the same time last year. And John Lewis is moving to a headless platform as it adopts a microservices, API and cloud-based approach to retailing. 

In today’s guest comment, Elena Gatti of Azoya considers how Singles Day is different this year, Finally, we report as the Co-op membership app is downloaded more than a million times since launch

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