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EDITORIAL Measuring the effect of Covid-19 on retail

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as the latest official figures show retail sales falling faster than they have since ONS records began. Only two weeks of five included in these ONS March results came after non-essential shops were ordered to close on March 23. That suggests that April’s figures will show even more of a decline.

Not all the business is moving online: while ecommerce won a record share of retail sales in March, that record share accounted for 22% of total retail sales during the period. That’s likely to be in part because online does not have the capacity to deal with current levels of demand. Many retailers are now warning of long waits for delivery, while the number offering next-day delivery has reduced signficantly, according to IMRG figures covered in our coronavirus rolling report. But shoppers are also likely to be holding back because they don’t have the spare cash – or the financial confidence – to spend as much as they used to, whether that’s on the high street or online. 

The latest RetailX Coronavirus Consumer Confidence Tracker suggests that shoppers are continuing to buy online slightly more often than they did, but that larger numbers have stopped or reduced their spending than those who are able to spend more across categories including clothing and electronics. For many, nothing has changed. But for growing minorities, the way they shop is changing slowly but steadily. Fewer now say that they’ll go back to shopping in the way they used to than did just a few weeks ago. 

Pent-up demand to buy in stores is likely to be reflected in the waits that are still prevalent online, and especially at multichannel retailers. This morning, shoppers wanting to buy online from B&Q would have had to queue for more than an hour before loading a thing into their virtual basket. Now B&Q is starting to reopen its shops – which are classed as essential retail – with 155 now open and all 296 expected to join them by the end of May. Even with social distancing and queuing in place, it’s likely the move will take pressure off the website, and enable shoppers to make the retail purchases that they haven’t been able to. We also look at how other hardware and home retailers are now selling, whether that’s online only or across channels. 

Today’s coronavirus rolling report looks at how Ingka Centres has seen demand return in its Chinese shopping malls. And we report on the retailers and brands now helping get PPE to health professionals. 

From our European coverage, we report as research suggests 60% of EU shoppers now buy online, while today’s guest comment comes from Jonathan Birch of Glass Digital, who considers how retailers can improve customer loyalty and boost online sales in the time of coronavirus. 

Image: Fotolia

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