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EDITORIAL How the second lockdown could change the shape of peak shopping further still

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as shops deemed non-essential prepare to close once more for a second Covid-19 lockdown. That’s likely to change the way shoppers buy this Christmas. For while many shoppers are spending time in longer-than-normal queues outside shops in these last few days before lockdown starts on Thursday, the closure will surely bring a new shape of peak trading. Black Friday will inevitably be almost fully online, adding to the usual peak strains on logistics systems – even logistics systems that have already increased capacity over the course of an extraordinary year for ecommerce retailers. Retailers will be allowed to operate click and collect services, and those who can fulfil orders from stores will find that capability now comes into its own. Nonetheless, Springboard is predicting that footfall will be down by more than 87% on English high streets during the lockdown period, currently set to run to December 2 and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is warning of a “nightmare before Christmas” for retailers.

Already we’ve seen rising levels of ecommerce sales. IMRG and the BRC had already warned shoppers to start their shopping early this year and retail sales figures suggest that festive shopping got underway online in September. Now we can expect ecommerce to grow again, with many customers no doubt aware that orders will be running at higher than normal levels. The Purple Tuesday organisation is calling for retailers to make changes to their online websites and apps at this time that could open up a multibillion market. 

We’ve already seen how the shape of retail has changed this year – in this newsletter alone we’re reporting on how Under Armour is now selling more online and direct to customers, while its wholesale revenues have fallen. Hugo Boss, too, is seeing its online sales rise sharply – and is now using social media to maintain that interest in its digital channels and to raise brand awareness

Ocado is predicting its full-year earnings could be 50% higher than last year as record numbers of shoppers move to buy their groceries online. It’s buying two robotics companies in order to help it respond by speeding up the pace of both delivery to customers and innovation.

And, which launched in the US in January to give independent bookshops an online platform, has now gone live in the UK as well. 

But Primark, which sells only through stores and thus acts as a useful comparison for the multichannel and ecommerce retailers on which we usually focus, saw its sales fall by almost exactly a quarter in its latest financial year, as a result of its stores being closed for almost a full quarter of the year. By Thursday, 57% of its stores will once more be closed. 

In today’s guest comment Ken Daly, chief executive of JML, shares his experience of how  shopping has changed as a result of Covid-19 – and says the reality is not always what might be expected. 

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