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EDITORIAL How retailers from Gap to Wickes and Gear4music are feeling the effects of disruption

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as multichannel retailers from Wickes to Gap and Unilever continue to see their sales grow, amid the disruption and turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gap is looking to new ways of trading, as it assesses the effect of retail turbulence on its business. It’s considering closing its UK stores – or, if not, transferring them to franchise partners – while focusing on its omnichannel sales instead. Already, it says, its online sales have risen to around 40% in 2020, up from 25% last year – and that’s likely to keep rising in the future.

Wickes and Toolstation have seen their sales grow quickly in a way that’s likely to be down to the convenience of its digital sales as well as the continuing appetite for DIY projects. 

Unilever’s online sales – the company’s direct-to-consumer brands include Graze to Marmie and Ben & Jerrys –  grew by 76%, according to its latest figures, as shoppers started to buy more food to eat at home. 

And Gear4music has benefited from high levels of business from customers turning to music at a difficult time. 

The latest figures from the ONS suggest that while online sales are still growing fast compared to the same time last year, they are starting to calm from the peaks seen in May and June. The proportion of sales taking place online is now much higher than it was before the pandemic – but not as high as it was back then – in May 33.3% of sales were online but in September that had subsided to 27.5%. That’s still well ahead of the 20% seen in February, before the lockdown, but it could signal a respite – however brief – from peak trading levels of business. Christmas shoppers will no doubt see that rise again before too long – the prospect of a largely digital Christmas notwithstanding.

And in today’s guest comment, former defence analyst turned writer Samuel Bocetta considers the importance of data to retailers. 

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