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Retailers close the sales gap as online shopping rises 23% in a week in UK – but where are shoppers spending?

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With many UK brick-and-mortar stores remaining closed, new data shows that retailers are closing the sales gap through their digital offerings – with online sales in the UK increasing 27% from the same time year-on-year and increasing by 23% from last week.   

But despite potentially having more time on their hands, UK consumers are not wasting it browsing online before purchasing, with search traffic up 46% year-on-year and search sales up almost three quarters (74%) from the same time last year.

The data from Bloomreach also highlights how UK consumers are searching online for their grocery items to check stock levels on products to help inform whether the wait at their local supermarket is worth it.

Brian Walker, Chief Strategy Officer at Bloomreach explains: “Bloomreach data shows that across the board eCommerce is seeing unprecedented growth. Across segments, search, delivery and click and collect are becoming incredibly important. Everyone is a purposeful, focused shopper now. They aren’t browsing, and this – in combination with features like store pick-up –  means that stores will essentially function as fulfilment nodes for the foreseeable future.”

He continues: “While some may argue that this change in customer shopping behaviour will end as soon as things begin to normalise, true “normalcy” is a long way off. Right now, the vast majority of physical stores are closed while others are open with major changes to the shopping experience that rely on digital and eCommerce to drive the customer experience. This way of shopping is the new normal and it’s not going to go back to the way it was before. The changes in the shopping experience are likely to be lasting ones that play out for years and this will have a meaningful impact on businesses of all kinds.”

Walker concludes: “Bloomreach data shows that in the grocery category specifically, online traffic is outpacing online sales. As with past weeks, consumers are facing out-of-stocks, lack of pick and delivery slots, and they are leaning on search not only for online purchases, but also to uncover whether something is actually available in-store before they mask up and leave their homes for what is still today a treacherous experience.”

Where are they spending?

According to the latest data from Lovethesales’ latest fortnightly COVID-19 Retail Report, sales of kids clothes, luxury fashion, activewear, rainbow patterned clothes in honour of the NHS, snazzy face masks and even dog jumpers are all winners this week.

Lovethesales has found that sales of kids clothing skyrockets by 151% in April. Its data shows that parents are buying their kids new casual clothing during lockdown. To substitute for the everyday school uniform kids would normally be wearing and wearing out in playgrounds and classrooms, parents are having to buy their children more every day clothes to wear at home. Sales of kids fashion has increased 151% year-on-year. 

T-shirts have had the biggest rise in sales, up 225% year-on-year, while other notable rises have been in skirts (+161%), and jumpers up 133% in sales. The most popular brands driving sales during lockdown include Disney & Marvel clothing, sales up 80%, Nike kids clothing (+72%) and Joules kidswear, up 65% year-on-year.

Demand for luxury fashion has shot back up in the past fortnight, with searches for luxury brands 27% up year-on-year. Demand for luxury labels had fallen at the beginning of April year-on-year, but is beginning to turn around in May. 

Jessie Stein, freelance stylist said of the data: “Many fashion conscious Gen Z and Millennials are thinking about great clothing items to lift their spirits and what to wear when lockdown lifts. The data shows that people are now investing in more quality pieces that they can really look forward to wearing and that will stand the test of time – Gucci, Balenciaga and Prada are all trending at the moment on social media and that’s reflected in what people are hunting for when shopping online. Luxury rules in lockdown.”

High street fashion, however, continues to struggle, with demand for high street brands is down 102% year-on-year. Demand for premium brands, which had an increase in April, have subsequently dropped in May by 19%, as shoppers start trading up to luxury pieces of clothing. 

Views of rainbow fashion wear have skyrocketed by 566% in April, compared to a year ago. Online shoppers are showing their support for NHS workers by wearing rainbow colours at home. Lorraine Kelly wore a Boden Erica rainbow dress on Good Morning Britain and in the days after, the dress had a 233% boost in page views on clothing marketplace

Demand for fashionable face masks is up 285%, month-on-month, with shoppers anticipating needing face masks when social restrictions are lifted and many want to use this as an opportunity to accesorise. This luxury Off-White mask is one of the most searched for fashion masks online and is currently sold out. Other brands seeing high demand for the fashionable face masks include US brand Rag & Bone, the brand recently released a fashionable ‘stealth mask’ for customers (now sold out), with part of the profits going to Covid-19 charities. Boohoo’s line of fashion masks have had an increase in page views of 218%, in the past fortnight.

Demand for active clothing has shot up by 141% in May. At the beginning of lockdown, reported a 433% increase in demand for loungewear, however, as we enter the second month of lockdown, shoppers are focusing on clothes for outdoor exercise and keeping fit. Runners and cyclists are driving the trend with searches for running and cycling shorts up 159% and 147% respectively. Under Armour and New balance are the brands of choice for runners, with demand for both brands up 65% and 60% year-on-year. Cycling clothing brand Castelli has had the biggest jump in search compared to its competitors, with demand up 98% this month. 

And of course, pet fashion has become one of the categories of clothing to have a bump in demand during April. Demand for dog jumpers is up 88% year-on-year. As owners spend more quality time with their pets at home, it seems that giving them a fashion makeover is a must for many pet owners in lockdown.

Rupert Walker Head of Brand at comments: “It’s very telling that demand for children’s clothing has spiked since the closure of UK schools in March. Normally parents can rely on tough school uniforms to bear the brunt of wear and tear 5 days a week. Now children are at home 24/7, UK parents are having to shell out for new play wear and sales of skirts and jumpers are booming, with Disney and Marvel brands really profiting from lockdown.”

He adds: “Data also shows that the Duchess of Cambridge is the ultimate Royal fashionista, she can inspire global fashion demand even on virtual tours, the spike in demand for British clothing brands, Tabitha Webb and Boden, was almost instantaneous after her online appearance.”

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