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EDITORIAL The highs and lows of 2022 – and what they can teach us

As Christmas hoves into view and as we start to take a look at what the year ahead has in store, it is prescient to cast our minds back across 2022 to see what changed and, perhaps more importantly, to see what we have learned that we can take forward into the new year.

The obvious thing to look at first is that following the dark days of the pandemic, many of us started 2022 full of hope that things would get better as the year went on. And they did for a bit, then thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting rocket in energy prices, dark clouds have rolled in as the year has progressed.

As I write this, nurses, postal workers, road repairers and the railways are all on strike or poised to do so. Interest rates have been put up by another half a percent, wage demands are rising and Christmas spending looks to be down at a level not seen since the crash in 2008. It looks like a not very happy new year ahead.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. The various reports that we have produced over the year point to growth across most sectors – certainly pulling themselves up from the dark days of the pandemic, with luxury, fashion, consumer electronics, sportswear and marketplaces all seeing reasonably growth in 2022, with more to come – albeit muted. 

According to the RetailX European Marketplaces 2022 report, the European marketplace sector has seen extraordinary growth in the past few years, doubling in revenue to €200bn since 2020 and set for continued growth in the years to come.

This growth has been driven by one simple factor: convenience. Pre-pandemic, marketplaces were already offering consumers an easy way to search out what they wanted to buy, usually at a competitive price and with excellent delivery and returns options. For many consumers, marketplaces became their first experience of online shopping.

Meanwhile, the European market for consumer electronics has seen growth driven by the pandemic, but those geopolitical issues mentioned above could be about to slow things down. That said, the global online sales of consumer electronics was valued at $473.2bn in 2020 and on course to hit $540bn by 2027, finds the RetailX European Consumer Electronics Report 2022. It might have been ravaged by Covid, hit hard by Brexit and suffering from a supply chain that relies on neon gas from Ukraine, but the sector is seeing significant growth – especially in Central and Eastern Europe, which is playing catch up to the tech savvy West.

Global fashion, once seen as a sector that would never be able to adapt to ecommerce, now sees 46% of sales coming from online, growing to 60% by 2024. Global fashion retail is worth $752bn, with The US and China each accounting for some $300bn of this. Europe makes up the bulk of the remainder. The market is increasingly driven by consumers looking for more ethical choices, with second hand fashion and environmentally-friendly garment manufacture high on the list of shoppers mores moving forwards.

Luxury has come out of the pandemic raring to go, finds the .  RetailX Luxury Sector Report, which outlines how this contraction can be squarely placed at the door of the pandemic, which radically shifted spending on all goods online and, with economic uncertainty globally across the first half of 2020, saw overall sales decline markedly. In fact, The world’s Top 100 luxury goods companies generated revenues of $252bn in 2020, down 12% from the $261.13bn seen in 2019 and only marginally ahead of the $247bn recorded in 2018. 

According to the RetailX European Sports Goods sector report, the online sporting goods and outdoor sector in EMEA was worth €12.04bn in 2021, markedly up from €10.53bn seen in 2020 and continuing impressive growth that the sector has enjoyed since around the end of the credit crunch in 2008. It is further forecast to hit €13.18bn in 2022.

The curtailment of team sports and many indoor sports caused a fundamental shift in what was shopped in sports across the continent in 2020 and 2021. This was compounded by a downshift in sales of Winter sportswear, impacted by travel restrictions lessening the number of people going on skiing and other winter sports holidays across these two years. 

However, the lockdowns and the pandemic didn’t wipe out consumer spending on sports and outdoor apparel and equipment. Instead, it produced a shift in where that spend went, with more consumers taking up individual sports including yoga and Pilates. 

The market also saw growth in outdoorwear and walking apparel and equipment as, in many countries in the region, walking was one of the few things locked down consumers were able to undertake. Many also bought dogs, which also required walkies. 

Many of these sector gains made in lockdown have been maintained and, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the retail sector is pretty good at adapting to rapid change. Perhaps the lessons learned in these sectors and others in the pandemic will see retailers adapt again to what 2023 has in store. Let’s hope so. Happy New Year.

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