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EDITORIAL The retail side-effects of Covid-19

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting in the week that two retailers deemed essential in the coronavirus pandemic and one that is deemed non-essential have published figures. Boots, Pets at Home and H&M group all have their latest updates out this week – and demonstrate how different kinds of businesses are faring at an unprecedented and unpredictable time.

Boots shows its ‘before’ picture, with retail sales down in its second quarter compared to the same time last year, although online sales were up. Now that shoppers are queuing to buy online from the retailer, that picture may well have changed, although early indications suggest that in-store sales were down in March, even as shoppers faced lengthy online queues to buy essential products.

In contrast, Pets at Home says it saw “exceptional” demand in the final weeks of its last financial year. But that buying may well have been confined to a short-lived period – and it says there’s uncertainty around whether shoppers will still want to buy in the near future. 

H&M, whose clothes are deemed non-essential, is putting some of its suppliers to work to make PPE equipment for health services. It saw online sales rise in March, towards the end of its second quarter, but the rise could not compensate for the temporary closure of thousands of its shops.   

We also report on how a range of retailers are now using the ship from store model to fulfil online orders. It’s an approach that some are already using to effect within the new rules of retail that have been imposed by Covid-19.

These themes also emerge in today’s rolling news story, where we cover how the Arcadia Group is now set to put many of its head office workers on furlough, how The Hut Group is helping the emergency services, the homeless and others in Manchester and its wider markets, and we report as Joules raises money to take its transformation further and to give it head room in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In today’s guest comment, Lisa Kalscheur of Monetate argues that shoppers want a streamlined experience and digital innovation is leading the way to reinvigorate physical shopping. 

Image: Shutterstock

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