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UK retail sales set to be 38% online by 2026: study

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UK shoppers will do ever more of their shopping online in coming years, with the figure rising to 38% by 2026, a new report suggests.

Some 32% of UK sales will take place online in 2021, says the Edge by Ascential Future Retail Disruption 2021-2022 report. That’s up from 29% last year. It forecasts that UK shoppers will continue to shift online, with 38% of UK retail sales taking place online by 2026 – up from 21% in 2019. 

By 2026, it says, online sales will account for almost 40% of chain retail sales around the world, building on a shift online that accelerated in 2020 as non-essential retail stores were forced to close in Covid-19 lockdowns. During 2020, online shopping grew by 37.4% around the world as a result, according to Edge by Ascential’s Edge Retail Insight research portal, having grown by 18% in 2019. 

Xian Wang, VP of Edge Retail Insight, says: “Every six months or so we revisit our set of STEIP (Society; Economy; Policy, Technology and Industry) drivers of change to assess the implications for the retail landscape over the next one, three and five years. This is so we can remain trusted advisers to the consumer brands we serve to help them understand how their operations must evolve to stay relevant and thrive in fast-moving times.  

“Covid-19 accelerated many changes that were already taking place and in this report we have focused on recent developments in last-mile fulfilment, , the growth of retailer media and the transformation of retailers into digital ecosystem platforms powered by data and analytics.  In addition, we review the state of physical store networks as the shift to online sales puts pressure on the high street. These are some of the biggest areas of change in the retail landscape as we look to 2022.”

Wang says the shift comes as retailers invest to give a better fulfilment experience to customers, offering faster delivery or working with third-party delivery providers. This, he says, means grocers such as Tesco and Morrisons will be better placed to compete with Amazon as it moves further into the UK grocery market in 2022. 

“Globally, of the almost 2,500 retailers we cover at Edge Retail Insight, two-thirds  (60%) now offer two-hour delivery (or faster) and almost 30% commit to deliver in 30 minutes, as ultra-rapid VC-funded startups push the envelope with regards to customer expectations,” he says. 

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