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UPDATED Coronavirus round-up: IMRG, H&M, Arcadia, Joules, Mintel, Pets at Home, The Hut Group and Rare on the developing pandemic

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We’re reporting on the effect of the Covid-19 coronavirus on the way UK shoppers buy – and on how retailers are responding to that changing behaviour. This update comes as 33,718 positive cases have been confirmed by Public Health England as of 9am on April 2 and 2,921 people have died.

How different categories are selling online: IMRG

Online sales rose by 0.6% in the last week of March (starting March 22) and by 10.3% compared to the previous week, new IMRG data suggests. But while the data, shared on an IMRG webinar this week, shows overall online sales holding their ground, different categories are faring very differently. The IMRG Capgemini Digital Dashboard shows clothing sales down by 42.5%, year on year, with womenswear, menswear and footwear all sharply down. Electricals and garden products, however, appear to have fared very differently, with garden products alone up by 165.9% on the previous year, while sales of electricals were up by 68.5%. Mobile commerce was down by 7%, year-on-year, although this was largely due to a 24% drop in sales via tablet computers. Smartphone sales were 11.4% up.

“There’s some really unfortunate sales reporting going on in clothing,” said Matthew Walsh, director of data and retail at IMRG. “People are not going out and buying new apparel items, and they are simply not buying new shoes.” But in gardens, he said, there were examples of retailers such as Waitrose’s garden website that stopped taking orders because it had so many to deal with. On the Boots website, meanwhile, there were long virtual queues.

Lewis Besley, of fraud prevention specialist Emailage, said that its data had seen a slight uptick in clothing sales in recent days. “It could be the case that the initial shock of lockdown is easing,” he said.

Online sales at Boots were already growing before the Covid-19 pandemic

New figures out from Boots owner the Walgreens Boots Alliance show how online sales were already growing at the retailer before the Covid-19 pandemic put it on the front line of retail. Read the full story here

H&M says coronavirus likely to speed up transformation

H&M chief executive Helga Helmersson has said that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to lead to a more digital and a more sustainable world. Her comments came as the retailer said sales and profits both rose in the first quarter – before sales dropped by 46% in March as many of its shops closed. Read the full story here

In the same story, we report as Arcadia Group has now put many of its head office staff on furlough while scaled-down online operations continue.

Joules raises £15m in stockmarket placing for extra headroom and continued transformation 

Joules today said it had raised £15m in a placing to give it extra headroom during the Covid-19 pandemic while also enabling it to emerge “relatively stronger” from an “unprecedented situation”. 

The multichannel lifestyle retailer has placed 18.7m new shares at a price of 80p each, with directors buying 7.8% of the placing.

Nick Jones, Joules chief executive, said: “This placing will help Joules to deliver its long-term growth plans as well as supporting the business to successfully navigate through the current unprecedented trading environment.” 

He added: “We are delighted with the levels of support from our shareholders which reflects broad recognition of the strength of the Joules brand and our business model as well as our exciting, long-term prospects.”

Seventeen percent of shoppers now buying more online: Mintel

Almost a third of shoppers (32%) have stocked up on groceries or other supplies while 17% are now doing more shopping online, a study from Mintel suggests.

The research, covering the week to March 25, also found that 31% of British adults were now extremely concerned about the risk of being exposed to coronavirus, and only 5% are now at all worried – down from 15% in the week to March 13. More than a third (36%) are now very concerned about what the outbreak could mean for their lifestyles. 

Jack Duckett, associate director of consumer lifestyles research at Mintel, said: “There’s been an increase in online buying – an activity that is particularly crucial for those isolating due to the virus. As we’ve seen in China, this is a change that could prove lasting after the outbreak slows. Those new to the online shopping experience – or those who increase their usage – during the outbreak may feel more confident using ecommerce platforms and enjoying its convenience.”

Pets at Home says uncertain times set to follow strong full-year result

Pets at Home said this week that it expected full-year profits to be slightly ahead of expectations – after “exceptional” demand during the Covid-19 crisis. But it warns that customer spending may well be down in its current financial year, which opens in a time of uncertainty. Read the full story here.

The Hut Group pledges £10m in Covid-19 aid

The Hut Group has launched a £10m Covid-19 aid package to support vulnerable communities, key workers and emergency services in Manchester, the UK and its international markets. Some £5m of that is being spent in Manchester, to support homeless people, other charities and to provide critical products as services. The balance is being pledged to areas outside the Noth West. Rooms in its two Manchester City centre hotels are available for free to Manchester NHS and police staff who are working away from their families. Its in-house catering team is also delivering food parcels to vulnerable people in the North West and giving its own staff free meals to take home after each shift. 

Matthew Moulding, founder and chief executive of THG, said: “THG is a major global player in the manufacture and retail of Nutrition, Vitamins and Personal Care products. These are unprecedented times and THG has an obligation to support those in need, not only as a major regional employer, but because we have the ability to do so.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “These are challenging times for us all and it means so much to see one of our most successful home-grown companies stepping forward and giving back to our communities.”

Online shopping in decline: Rare

A minority of shoppers are still stockpiling groceries, with 13% saying they bought more items, more frequently over the last week, a study from research firm Rare: suggests. Others are instead buying more consciously (31%), while overall online shopping for groceries appears to be down by 33% as residents struggle to get delivery slots. They are also buying 35% fewer white goods, and 38% fewer electronic items. But nearly a third (29%) of 18 to 24-year-olds are now buying online more products that relate to their hobbies or interests. The findings come from Rare’s weekly Coronavirus UK Consumer Tracker, which questions 1,000 UK residents. 

Rare: founder and chief executive Ben Pask said: “People are tailoring their behaviour around the evolving state of the pandemic. The majority of consumers are worried about it and also concerned about their jobs. On the plus side, there is a stronger sense of community spirit in business, family life, social life and on a global scale.

“People are still socialising, just not in conventional ways. They are trying things like online streaming of games and movies in greater numbers. When the dust has settled and all of this is over, it will be interesting to see which new forms of communication and socialising stay, and which will be a distant memory.”

Clipper Logistics working on new supply chain for NHS PPE equipment

Clipper Logistics has won a contract to provide service related to a new supply chain for NHS personal protective equipment (PPE), delivering to NHS hospital trusts and other providers around the country.  

It has set up a solution in five days, includin a full warehouse management system for more than 200,000 sq ft of warehousing space.

Steve Parkin, executive chairman at Clipper, said: “These are unprecedented times, and the support we have received from NHS Supply Chain, Unipart and 101 Logistic Brigade has been outstanding, and has enabled us to create a truly collaborative solution as a result. The solution has required tremendous flexibility and a shared sense of purpose and support in these challenging times. I’d like to personally thank all of our colleagues for their dedication and support in these unusual and difficult circumstances. We are all pleased to be able to support the NHS in a critical time for the country, helping NHS staff operate safely whilst caring for those in need.”

DPD ties up with Morrisons for food parcel delivery

Parcel delivery firm DPD says it expects food and NHS deliveries to increase rapidly in the coming weeks, following a new tie up with supermarket giant Morrisons and additional deliveries to hospitals and other health sector locations.

DPD is now delivering Morrisons food boxes in addition to handling an increase in deliveries for existing food and recipe box shippers. It has made more than 200,000 food deliveries a week, and now plans for that number to rise significantly.

Morrisons has created a Meat Eaters Food Box and a Vegetarian Food Box.  Both cost £35 and contain a range of chilled, fresh and tinned food stuffs, designed to help feed a couple for up to a week.  DPD will deliver the boxes the next day, for orders placed before 3pm.

DPD is also now making thousands of additional deliveries for the NHS including hospitals, GP surgeries, out of hours centres, pharmacies, adult care homes and hospices.  DPD has recently delivered 10.3 million masks, 6.7 million gloves and 5.2 million aprons for the NHS.

DPD says it has introduced full social distancing measures throughout its operation which includes everyone staying two metres apart during briefings and for all processes such as loading and unloading vehicles.  Driver start times have been staggered to ensure there are far fewer drivers in the depot at any time and extra cleaning measures have been introduced at all depots and parcel hubs, while on the doorstep, all deliveries are contactless, with the driver maintaining a distance of at least two metres at all times.

Dwain McDonald, DPD’s chief executive, said: “At a time when many people are still struggling to safely get hold of fresh produce and essential supplies, we have partnered with Morrisons to provide next-day delivery for their food boxes, with our full one-hour delivery slot service. It is hugely reassuring for people to see that they can order these goods easily and know exactly when they will be arriving.

“I’m delighted to see the Government confirm the essential status of our industry at this difficult time.  It is recognition of the role we are all playing in keeping supplies moving, while keeping our customers and our people safe.

“Our depot and hub teams have been fantastic. They are doing an incredible job and the feedback the drivers are receiving from their customers has been amazing.  They are doing an essential job and it is hugely appreciated.” 

Image: Adobe Stock

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