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EDITORIAL How the shape of retail continues to change under pressure from Covid-19

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we report as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to change the way that shoppers are buying – and retailers are responding. 

This week we’ve seen a fast shift online: footfall, says Springboard, was down by 81% last week, year-on-year, as all but essential stores closed. The fear now, it says, is that shopper visits will increase over Easter, when warm weather is expected.  We take a look at how different Easter, usually the second biggest shopping period of the year and one when more shoppers visit stores, is likely to be for retailers this year. 

Many more people are buying online – but that demand seems very variable. It appears highest for grocery retailers and today we look at how supermarkets have moved to expand their delivery capabilities fast – and at some of the other ways they are supporting both their staff and customers at a difficult time. 

Most retailers still see the majority of their sales in-store and most will be suffering as a result of that falling footfall. This week saw Debenhams take the first step in appointing administrators and giving notice of what it says will be a “light touch” administration – designed to keep it ready to trade when normal conditions return. In our rolling news coverage, we report as WH Smith, meanwhile, has raised millions in new funding through lending and a stockmarket placing to give it breathing space through a downturn that has hit its sales hard. Will coronavirus be the event that changes the way we shop long-term? As yet it’s difficult to predict the future shape of retail, but certainly new capacity is building fast to enable online deliveries in the future, and grocery retailers in particular are likely to find a new willingness among customers to buy online. 

But certainly stores are likely to remain a key part of the future shopping experience and in today’s guest comment, Nigel Ashman of Onvu Retail considers how Amazon has changed the real-world shopping experience – and what that means for other retailers, and, from our European coverage, we also report as Ikea furthers its virtual design vision by acquiring an AI imaging start-up.

Image: Shutterstock

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