In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we report as multichannel retailers and brands are continuing to show the effect that Covid-19 and associated lockdowns has had on them over the last full year of trading. All have seen their stores close for months at a time. Those that had built strong multichannel models have been able, to varying extents, to mitigate for those repeated and relatively unpredictable store closures by meeting demand online instead. Others with strong international businesses have seen stores in less affected areas help to compensate for those areas where business was hit harder.
This week, UK-based The Works says that its overall sales of discount books, crafts and children’s activities, fell by 19% in a year that its online sales grew by 120% – while its stores were closed for much of the time. The retailer was able to scale up its online model quickly, and benefited too from being in a high demand category. Now it says online sales remain higher than they were before Covid-19 although lower than they were during store closures.
Upmarket luxury retailer Burberry, meanwhile, limited its full-year sales decline to 11%, thanks to its ability to use its existing global reach and strong digital capabilities to mitigate store closures and a hit to fashion sales in some parts of the world. It responded by serving increased demand in those areas, such as China and South Korea, that had escaped the worst of the pandemic.
In the same week, luxury platform Farfetch says it has seen first quarter sales grow by 46% as shoppers in China and beyond flock to the platform to buy from thousands of brands on offer.
Retailer Dixons Carphone is now stepping up its digital transformation still further, as it unveils its plan to rename all of its UK retail brands as Currys from October. Digital will be at the heart of its new strategy, that comes with £190m investment in areas from new cloud-based web platforms, and in-store screens to staff training.
And John Lewis reopens its Edinburgh store today, offering its latest take on what a department store is for in the 21st century. Services and experiences come to the fore, including a beauty concierge and home makeover consultations in a new World of Design hub as the retailer looks to give shoppers reasons to visit the store rather than buy only online.
Today’s guest comment comes from technology writer Sam Bocetta, who considers why – and how – online retailers should be thinking about using TikTok.