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LOCKDOWN 2.0 Retailers feel the effect of second England lockdown on shops – and turn to digital ways of getting goods to consumers

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Stores got busy in the run up to the second Covid-19 lockdown in England – but the mini in-store boom was followed by a drop in footfall, new figures suggest. Resourceful retailers continue to find new ways to get their products to consumers.

Shoppers made more visits to shops in the first half of last week – with footfall up by a week-on-week average of 11.7% between Sunday and Thursday, according to Springboard. Visitor numbers peaked on Wednesday (+20.4%) before lockdown had an immediate effect on Thursday (-46.7%). Between Sunday and Wednesday footfall was down by 17.8% compared to the same time last year – improving from -34.6% in the previous week. But from Thursday to Saturday footfall was down by 61.6% across all destinations – worsening from the previous week, when the same days were 29.9% down on the previous year. 

Across the week, retail parks (-9.7% week-on-week (WOW), -18.8% year-on-year (YOY)) were more resilient, thanks to the food shops that tend to be located there. High streets (-16.6% WOW, -46% YOY) and shopping centres (-18.9% WOW, -42.2% YOY) were less resilient. 

Footfall varied between the UK nations. A two-week lockdown mandating the closure of non-essential came to an end today in Wales (+10.9% WOW, -70% YOY), while Scotland (+0.9% WOW) and Northern Ireland (-3.6%) do not currently have restrictions in place that affect non-essential retailers).

Diane Wehrle, insight director at Springboard, said: “Last week was in the clearest sense a week of two halves. With the second lockdown being announced on Saturday evening before the start of the week on Sunday, but not coming into force until Thursday, it was inevitable there would be a last minute surge in activity, which is exactly what occurred.

“The resilience of retail parks has been consistent throughout this year and has remained true during this new lockdown with footfall declining almost half that of high streets and shopping centres last week. As shops closed throughout the UK from Thursday, the bounce back effect of footfall on high streets and in shopping centres after December 2 may illuminate whether the Christmas season can provide a much needed boost to the retail sector.”

The retail response

With the advent of the new lockdown came resourceful ways of getting goods to customers. Cosmetics company Lush – ranked Top250 in RXUK Top500 research – has introduced a new on-demand delivery service that enables shoppers to buy from 45 of its UK stores for same-day, contactless trackable delivery via last-mile delivery platform Stuart. 

Charlotte Howe, of the Lush group retail leadership team said, “We adore serving our customers to meet their exact needs and we recognise that these needs are ever changing. Our partnership with Stuart means that customers local to us can access their Lush goodies, even when they can’t physically get to us.  For a last minute gift, your favourite bath bomb or that face mask you can’t be without, we can get it to you in a flash! Getting your hands on Lush has never been easier!”

Stuart says that same-day delivery is currently growing by more than a third a year as a result of Covid-19.  

Jonathan Jenssen, UK general manager at Stuart, said: “With consumers’ rising expectations around fast and convenient delivery – especially in the wake of the pandemic, during which online shopping has soared – our goal is to empower retailers to offer their end-customers a fast and flexible delivery experience. By leveraging their stores, they are able to offer same day delivery, which is one of the fastest growing segments in the last-mile space, growing by 36% annually.”

Meanwhile, supermarket Aldi continues to expand its click and collect service – piloted at a single store in September following Covid-19 lockdowns and the rising shopper interest in ordering online – even from stores that were able to remain open. The service was rolled out to customers at 18 shops and is now expanding to 200. It has also gone on to launch a Deliveroo trial, available in 42 shops. 

Aldi chief executive Giles Hurley said the trial had been “hugely popular”, adding: “By extending it to hundreds of new stores, we’re making Aldi accessible to thousands of shoppers who might never have visited one of our stores before.”

And Laithwaite’s Wine says it has seen a boom in home deliveries this year, driven by lockdown. 

Philippa Strub, managing director at Laithwaite’s Wine, said: “I’ve been incredibly proud of the reaction from our teams this year to continue providing for our loyal customers. Our customer service ratings have been outstanding during a difficult period and our family of winemakers around the world have been thankful to our customers for helping them stay afloat. Needless to say, a long-standing and trusting relationship with Yodel has played a huge part in adapting so quickly.”

Sam Holden, chief commercial officer at Yodel, said: “With consumers up and down the country continuing to work remotely, online retail is consistently demonstrating its convenience across all sectors.

“With our specialist skills and expertise in drinks delivery, we pride ourselves on ensuring that delicate goods are handled with care and delivered on time. We’ve seen our partnership flourish with Laithwaite’s Wine over the past 20 years which has given us a solid foundation to build on, and we’re excited to play a part in the next stage of their success story.”

Meanwhile, eBay says that shoppers have been buying in preparation of Lockdown 2.0. Sales of gym weights rose by 500% and cardio machines by 200% the day the government announced lockdown. Sales of 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles rose by 36%, while board games were up 21% on the previous day. 

Murray Lambell, general manager, of eBay UK, said: “Since the outset of the pandemic, we have seen distinct trends emerge on eBay UK, painting an interesting picture of how we are responding to the challenges of the crisis through our shopping habits. Not only has at-home gym equipment soared, but we have seen a revival of arts and crafts and classic family board games – and, even more recently, an uptick in purchases of outdoor patio heaters as people prepare for the winter lockdown.”

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