We’re reporting on the effect of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic on the way UK shoppers buy – and on how retailers are responding to that changing behaviour. This update comes as the UK had, as of 9am on April 17, 108,692 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 14,576 deaths in hospital. That includes 5,599 new cases and 847 deaths over the previous 24 hours.
The closure of non-essential retail in the UK, now extended for another three weeks, equates to 382m sq ft of physical space out of action. That’s space that would have generated £14.5bn of sales over the six week period period based on 2019 sales, says data and analytics company GlobalData.
Maureen Hinton, global retail director at GlobalData, comments: “Measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community is hitting non-food retailers the hardest, particularly clothing specialists, which account for 36% of these lost sales.”
Hinton added: "While some of these sales will have transferred online the majority will not be recovered, speeding up the demise of the weakest operators and the permanent closure of even more retail space.”
Waitrose is to treble availability of its rapid delivery service to 7,000 slots – and reserve 40% of them for elderly and vulnerable customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will also increase its number of click and collect slots.
Waitrose Rapid promises two-hour delivery of up to 25 items, with a £10 minimum spend. So far it has been trialled at eight London shops and in Hove, East Sussex. Now it is to be expanded to a further 20 shops in London from today.
Click and collect, meanwhile, is to expand by 10,000 slots – or 50% – to 30,000, as it expands online collection to 40 shops by the end of April and 70, in total, by the end of May.
Ben Stimson, Waitrose.com director, said: “We are now making more online deliveries than Christmas week, every week, and have increased slots to reach 20% more customers than usual. We know there is demand for more slots and we are doing all we can to give as many people as possible the opportunity to get the essentials they need - especially those who need them the most.
“In addition to opening up more channels through expanding Waitrose Rapid and increasing the number of stores where online orders can be collected, we have recruited hundreds of drivers and increased the number of extra people-hours picking Waitrose.com orders by nearly 50%.”
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UK brands are among about 20 luxury brands that have opened shops on Chinese retail website JD.com since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Leather brand Smythson and cashmere brand Pringle of Scotland is among those setting up new shops on JD since the beginning of January. Others include fine leather goods house Delvaux, Chanel-owned jewellery brand Goossens and cashmere specialist Barrie. JD says it now has partnerships with more than 200 luxury brands from around the world.
“The pandemic has affected many industries, and luxury is no exception. It has encouraged many luxury brands to attach greater importance to online.” said Kevin Jiang, president of international business at JD Fashion and Lifestyle. “JD’s supply chain advantages, and the support we provide, have attracted brands to deepen their partnerships with us. In the coming months, we plan to offer more innovative programs to help brands deal with impact of the pandemic.”
JD says that Chinese shoppers are turning online to buy during Covid-19 at a time they they are not able to travel out of he country to buy. It cites a 2019 Bain report, What’s Powering China’s Market for Luxury Goods, found that more than 70% of Chinese consumers’ luxury purchases took place outside China. The report also suggested that China’s luxury goods market had grown by 20% for two years in a row.
The online prices of in-demand items such as toilet rolls, pasta and hand wash have risen on average by 4.4% in recent weeks, Office for National Statistics figures suggest.
The ONS also said that between March 23 and April 5, 25% of businesses said they had temporarily stopped trading. Those businesses that continued to operate had furloughed 21% of their staff, on average, through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Five per cent of their workforces were off sick or in self-isolation, while 70% were working as normal.
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Online sales grew by 38% last week, according to the latest figures from the IMRG-Capgemini online sales tracker. That, said Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant, retail insight, at Capgemini, is the kind of sales growth previously only seen around Black Friday.
Gibbs, speaking on the IMRG’s weekly coronavirus webinar, said pureplay retailers had seen their online sales grow by 4% in the week to April 14, while retailers who normally sell online and through stores had seen their sales grow by 68%.
“It’s not really surprising,” said Gibbs, “as we see the sales from those multichannel retailers now being channelled purely through their digital channels.” While online sales are up, high levels of business will be lost through closed stores.
Online clothing sales are starting to recover, with internet sales in the category recovering from a previous drop of 42%. In the week of April 14, sales in the category fell by 8% compared to the same time last year – but grew by 19% compared to the previous week. Meanwhile, gifting sales had risen by 150% compared to last year – but last week settled back down to growth of more than 120%.
Dunelm is one of those multichannel retailers that have seen online sales growth strongly since its stores shuttered against coronavirus.
The retailer said today that its online orders were now “significantly higher” than those seen before the coronavirus outbreak. It reopened its online operations after closing to follow health and safety guidance on safe practice in its warehouses. Its stores are closed as it follows government guidance. Read the full story here.
Supermarket Waitrose says it is taking steps to protect its most vulnerable suppliers both in the UK and around the world. It is channeling £200,000 from its Waitrose Foundation Global Fund to communities in vulnerable countries who grow food that is sold in Waitrose stores. It is also making faster payments to its smallest suppliers including small British producers.
The retailer has joined with others to finance webinars for food suppliers featuring expert talks on subjects such as social distancing, furloughing, transport and accommodation.
Rupert Thomas, director of food and grocery at Waitrose, said: “The John Lewis Partnership was founded on the principle that we have a responsibility to others and that we must treat people fairly, which extends to our Partners, customers, suppliers and the communities that we trade with, including those outside of the UK.
“This pandemic poses the greatest humanitarian and economic threat of our generation and, whilst we face many difficult decisions, as a collective industry we must continue to look at ways we can help to protect people and their livelihoods during this unprecedented time. The measures we have put in place are just the start and we will continue to do everything we can to provide support to our suppliers and the people who form part of them, particularly those that are most vulnerable.”
Clipper Logistics says it is working with new and existing retailers to provide an extra 500,000 sq ft of warehousing space. The business is providing the new space to eight customers, along with handling and transportation services where required. Half of those customers are new to the business.
It has taken on support services including carrying out warehousing and picking for 70 regional stores of a national grocery business.
Steve Parkin, executive chairman of Clipper Logistics, said: "I would like to thank all members of the Clipper team for their continued innovation, dedication and hard work to enable us to rapidly deploy solutions and fulfil gaps in the supply chain for both new and existing customers in a quickly changing environment."
Image courtesy of Waitrose