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EDITORIAL Card Factory and Watches of Switzerland on rewards of multichannel; Primark on store-only retailing

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Today’s InternetRetailing newsletter comes as retailers from Card Factory to Watches of Switzerland show the value ecommerce has added to their businesses over the last year of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns – and as Associated British Foods, owner of resolutely store-only Primark, defends its business model, despite the estimated £2bn hole the pandemic has made in its sales. 

Today Watches of Switzerland shows that its ecommerce sales grew by more than a quarter in the first half of its year – even though its stores were fully open for that period. The luxury watch retailer says its multichannel model has helped it to stay resilient, with domestic sales growing quickly and 40% of UK sales taking place through personal appointments. 


And the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Index suggests that shoppers are still spending slightly less in stores than they did before the pandemic, while continuing to do a greater share of their shopping online. 

Card Factory’s latest figures reflect that scenario. The retailer says that its online sales remain well ahead of pre-pandemic levels, while sales in its stores are starting to return to that level. French Connection, which now has a new owner, has also relied on multichannel and wholesale to compensate, as far as possible, for an in-store sales decline.

So is Primark missing a trick by continuing to sell in-store only? There’s no doubt that the retailer is using digital, although not to sell. It is upgrading its non-transactional website and in-store systems, and boasts a large social media following. Meanwhile, the efficiency of its store model and supply chain keeps down costs, which ecommerce distribution would potentially raise. Perhaps if it was a standalone retail business it would have to sell online, whereas the food business run by its parent company ABF helps insulate it from the ups and downs of store-only retailing in a pandemic. In the short term at least, the company will be relying on the special status it certainly enjoys in the eyes of its customers. 

In today’s guest comment, Rakhee Jogia of Rakuten Advertising, considers how western brands can best approach Singles’ Day. 

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