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Unilever reports 49% rise in ecommerce sales as shoppers changed buying habits during Covid-19 lockdowns

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Unilever today reported ecommerce sales growth of 49%, while overall turnover fell by 1.6%, as shopping habits changed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Unilever says its performance during the Covid-19 lockdown showed its strength and agility. 

The organisation, whose brands include PG Tips, Dove, Hellmann’s and Magnum, said that the markets it sells in had changed considerably during Covid-19, as shoppers moved from offline to online channels during lockdowns. Rather than buying food served out of the home, shoppers had instead turned to food, ice cream and tea at home. 

The company today posted turnover of €25.7bn (£23.1bn) in the first six months of 2020. That’s down by 1.6% on the same time last year. Underlying operating profit of €5.1bn (£4.6bn) was up by 3.8%.

Unilever chief executive Alan Jope said: “Performance during the first half has shown the true strength of Unilever. We have demonstrated the resilience of the business – in our portfolio, in a continued step-up in operational excellence, and in our financial position – and we have unlocked new levels of agility in responding to unprecedented fluctuations in demand.”

Unilever was first affected in China, where sales slowed significantly as the economy went into lockdown in January. Unilever said that its performance there had started to recover as the economy opened up after April. In Europe and North America, the company’s brands benefited as households stocked up in March before patterns normalised in the second quarter of the year. There was higher demand for hygiene and home food products during that quarter. Sales in India and South America were affected later, in the second quarter. Sales in both of those markets had already been affected, however, by challenging conditions.

Unilever said that it reacted by reducing brand and marketing investment in some areas, while focusing investment on growth opportunities.

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