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EDITORIAL Signs of falling consumer confidence as shoppers rein in spending both online and offline

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we’re reporting as consumer confidence appears to take a hit in the light of Covid-19, supply chain issues and Brexit.

The latest figures from both the British Retail Consortium/KPMG and Barclaycard suggest that shoppers’ confidence has taken a knock, perhaps stemming from shortages including HGV drivers, fuel and from gaps on supermarket shelves. More than 40% of sales took place online in September, its figures suggest, although ecommerce sales have declined on last year, and retail sales have grown only slightly.  However, Hotter Shoes says its own focus online is helping past the wider economic turbulence and that it’s only seen sales grow of late.

That’s not the case at Asos, where sales growth has slowed towards the end of its last financial year – and is expected to be affected through the first half of this. Full-year sales were buoyant – but the retailer expects to feel more impact from supply chain, Covid-19 and Brexit  in the year ahead. Asos has aspirations to reach sales of £7bn within three to four years. Nonetheless, its chief executive Nick Beighton has stepped down with immediate effect, replaced by Mat Dunn who adds interim chief operating officer to his role as chief financial officer. 

We report on how retailers and delivery companies are now hiring store and fulfilment staff ahead of peak 2021 – when it’s likely that online shopping will be higher than ever as more people now shop online, but when there are also fears of staff shortages, replicating those seen elsewhere in the UK’s farming and lorry driving industries.

The way that shoppers moved online during Covid-19 is reflected in news from French Connection, which says more than 50% of its sales are now online, and more than 50% of ecommerce sales are now via mobile. But its retail sales have fallen at the same time, with most of its revenue now from wholesale. 

John Lewis sets out the change in the way its customers are buying in its annual report on shopper behaviour. The proportion of sales that take place online is now settling at between 60% and 70% while less income is now generated from its stores. It’s closed eight stores and is rethinking the way its remaining stores are used as its customers move ever further online and need more reasons to visit stores. 

The Retail Trust is launching a fundraising appeal after a 90% increase in demand for its services during Covid-19. The charity says it has spent more than £1m in supporting staff who have had mental health problems or lost work during the pandemic. 

In today’s guest comment, Olga Kotsur of Mercaux says that in-store digital transformation will be the key to giving retailers an advantage ahead of peak 2021. 

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