In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting a week into the reopening of non-essential stores, as footfall figures suggest that visitor numbers are improving from lockdown, but are still well down on the same time last year. Barclaycard Payments says it is also seeing sales rise as stores open, partly because many of its traders are now open again for the first time. The update today from the government that retailers can now cut social distancing to one metre may help to boost the numbers visiting stores still further. Numbers are most likely to happen where shoppers feel safe, so ensuring that they do must be a priority for those selling from stores.
The extent to which sales moved online during the non-essential retail lockdown are shown in two stories today. Pureplay Gear4music has seen “exceptional” levels of demand as people turned to music in lockdown. And while multichannel retailer Shoe Zone has seen higher than usual levels of online sales they have not compensated for the lack of sales via its more than 400 stores – whose value it is now writing down in its full-year figures.
The Covid-19 lockdown and visitor numbers remaining down is likely to be a factor in JD Sports Fashion’s decision to lodge a notice of its intention this week to appoint administrators to Go Outdoors, four years after it bought the retailer. Not only have Go Outdoors stores been shut for almost three months, but UK campsites have also been closed, giving shoppers little incentive to visit to buy tents and camping gear that are at the heart of the Go Outdoors proposition. As of lunchtime today, the latest update is that campsites will reopen on July 4, which may help bring more sales to the retailer.
Certainly Mothercare has cited Covid-19 in its need to get to a point where it can trade sustainably and profitably. It’s downsizing its head office and distribution centre as it makes that change.
And a number of beauty brands are now looking to improve their direct sales, perhaps with the aim of reaching shoppers who have now started to shop online more often, and may prove reluctant to return to stores. Elemis and Burt’s Bees is among those who are working with THG Ingenuity – the technology arm of The Hut Group – to improve their direct-to-consumer online operations.
Today’s guest comment comes from the retail team at Osborne Clarke law firm, with guidance on how retailers might approach the possibility that the government will claw back Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme funding for furloughing staff if it finds it was incorrectly claimed.