There is no doubt that digital is keeping retailing going during the pandemic and post-lockdown recovery. Footfall may be growing, but that belies just how important digital still is to this physical retail world.
Furniture retailer DFS is a case in point. It has added some £70 million in extra revenues across the summer as stir-crazy shoppers looked to make their confinement more comfortable.
However, it is the canny use of stores and online working together that have really made the difference. Being able to showroom in a socially-distanced store, combined with using AR to help place items in the home have all played their part. Online ordering, excellent delivery and click and collect for smaller items have all made the customer experience chime with the times.
Decathlon too has leveraged digital to keep customers buying during lockdown and plans to bring that to bear as it slowly re-opens stores. It, like DFS, was in a good position to tap into the lockdown, offering equipment and clothing for outdoor activities – one of the few things customers could do during the summer.
John Lewis, by contrast, has opened its online Christmas store early, driven by a phenomenal amount of searches and requests from shoppers keen to get going on Christmas shopping. The same applies to sister firm Waitrose, which has also seen a staggering amount of Christmas related searches.
Tesco is also upping the digital ante, creating 16,000 new jobs around digital: from pickers, packers and drivers, through to technical staff.
Many shoppers may well be looking now while they feel confident of income and, as DFS has warned, it may yet tail off, but the signs so far for some retailers are encouraging.
The over-riding theme is that for some retailers in some retail sectors there is recovery. Some sectors lend themselves to the current climate, but really what links those that are successful are those that have seen how to navigate their way through the pandemic by creating the right customer offering and using technology to make it work – with and without stores.