In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as retailers and brands start to define their new post-Covid 19 normal. It’s been said before that many changes that were already taking place in society have been brought forward by the pandemic. Today we report as Burberry, Clarks and Pets at Home start to work out what practical changes will take place in their business. Those changes come as the latest ONS figures show just how marked the effect of the pandemic has been on retail sales. Sales have moved online fast - but still don’t compensate for the loss of sales through stores. Shops have, at least till now, been at the heart of the way we buy – and online has not had the capacity to replace them, at least in the short term. At the same time, shoppers have held off from buying at a time when they are uncertain of their own financial position.
The latest edition of the RetailX Coronavirus Consumer Confidence Tracker shows that almost 90% have either reduced the amount they go to shops or stopped altogether, and 44% say they won’t change the way they shop after the pandemic.
This week, Clarks said it would look to expand digital and social in its own business, while scaling back its workforce by around 900 jobs – and whether it needs the same number of shops will remain under review as the footwear brand reassesses the way its customers want to shop.
Burberry is using digital to strengthen relationships with its customers during the pandemic, and says it will continue to focus on digital in the future as well. The luxury fashion brand was already scaling back its non-flagship stores, and it’s interesting that one of the its shops was at the centre of a live-stream browse of the store that was watched by 1.4m viewers. It’s easy to see that browsing a store would be more of a spectator sport than browsing a website; it seems likely that a slimmed-down number of shops will remain central to the business as well.
Pets at Home, meanwhile, says that while its stores have remained open during lockdown, and its online website has traded well ahead of normal, neither have compensated for the overall dip in sales. It says it’s hard to say how stores will trade long-term, but that shoppers may well prefer to buy in safer and more convenient ways - such as online, or through its new ‘call and deliver to car’ channel. What it does know is that it will be important to stay ’focused yet agile’ in the current financial year.
Today’s guest comment comes from Alexander Igelsböck of Adverity, who considers the three biggest data challenges facing online retailers - and how to overcome them.