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UPDATED Coronavirus round-up: M&S, Wickes, Games Workshop plus updates from Barclaycard, Emarsys, Melody, Forter, IRI, Bloomreach and more

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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 when, as of 9am on April 27, 157,149 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 21,092 people have died of it in hospital. Over the previous day, 4,310 people tested positive and 360 people died.

Marks & Spencer plans to up the pace of change

Marks & Spencer today said it planned up the pace of change in its business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The retailer is already part-way through a transformation programme – but is planning a programme that will mean its business is never the same again. Read the full story here

Wickes and Toolstation see first quarter sales rise – before effects of socially distant retail

Both Wickes and Toolstation today reported a rise in first-quarter figures – but parent company Travis Perkins said its business was hit by the lockdown as the second quarter started. Read the full story here

Games Workshop begins to restart its business

Games Workshop today said it had made changes in its operations that now enable it to restart sales in its largest channel – to trade buyers. 

The retailer, which sells products for its own Warhammer game, that said it would close its online operations and its stores when the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March in order to keep customers and staff safe. Now it says it has made changes across its warehouses that mean it can start making trade sales in Europe and North America this week. 

During May it will start to fulfil online orders as well. Most of its shops remain closed although some have reopened in China, the Netherlands and Scandinavia in line with local guidance and following the social distancing rules within each market. “Our stores will continue to re-open across the world as local restrictions are lifted and all required health and safety measures are met,” it said in today’s trading update. 

The retailer, a Top350 retailer in RXUK Top500 research,  says its performance had been affected as a result of the closure but now expects that its pre-tax profits for the year to May 31 will come in at at least £70m. It has also put a £25m overdraft facility in place with its bank. 

Shoppers want to see more sharing and sustainability in online services: study

The ability to combine online orders with someone else and an app to help vulnerable neighbours were among the tools backed by respondents to new study.

When digital product and experience agency Somo asked shoppers what new tools they would like to have available to them, 64% of those aged between 25 and 34 said they would find a tool that enables them to share or combine online orders useful, while more than half said they would like an app to help vulnerable neighbours. Almost half (45%) said they would want an app that told them what the best meals were to make with the food they have. Almost three quarters said they would like real-time data on supermarket stock and queues in order to help them plan.

Rebecca Crook, chief growth officer at Somo, said: “This research provides really useful insight on behaviours and needs of consumers in the UK. With three in four people wanting to see real-time data on supermarket stock and queues before travelling to shop provides supermarket retailers an opportunity here to help monitor crowds, encourage people to come at different times of the day to spread out numbers and deter visits from people looking for particular items if they are seen to be out of stock using real-time data. Similarly, if they could provide a service that allows people to combine online orders, it can save journeys which lowers the pressure on drivers and encourages a localised, community approach – something that is proving to be increasingly important to people as they spend far longer in their home communities.

“Unsurprisingly, we are seeing more young people actively engaging with various digital tools at this time, however it was surprising to see the drop in numbers to the extent we did – only one in 20 people aged 55+ are ordering shopping online which gives interesting insight to retailers who could be better targeting this group who is more vulnerable out of isolation.”

How shoppers are adapting to higher contactless limit

Less than a month from the introduction of a new higher threshold for contactless payments, Barclaycard has said it can see shoppers changing their buying behaviour.

The maximum amount that can be spent in a single contactless transaction was recently raised to £45 (or €50) from £30 (or €30) in order to help retailers reduce contact between staff and customers. Since then, says Barclaycard, it has processed more than 7m contactless payments above the previous limit – worth more than £264m. It says 43% of in-store transactions worth between £30 and £45 are now made using contactless. 

The new limit is being rolled out first to sectors including supermarkets, grocery, bakeries and pharmacies as well as petrol stations. 

Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments said: “We want to play our part in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so we are delighted to have reached 7 million transactions so quickly. We would like to thank our clients both large and small for working with us to make the required changes, and for promoting the new limits to consumers. This rapid adoption would not have been possible without them. We believe that contactless is the safest, fastest and most responsible way to pay in store, and we encourage all consumers to take advantage of the new higher limit where possible.”

John Lewis making plans for store reopening as early as next month

John Lewis says it’s making plans to reopen its stores – and could be ready to open the first in mid-May. We also report as the retailer reopens its Lancashire textiles factory in order to sew scrubs for the NHS. Read the full story here. 

New customers make up almost half of retailers’ ecommerce sales in March

New customers accounted for nearly half of retailers’ online sales in March, figures suggest. 

Data from Covid-19 Commerce Insight, run jointly by customer engagement specialist Emarsys and analytics provider GoodData, suggests that retailers saw 43% of ecommerce transactions coming from customers who were new to them, and 23% from active repeat customers. Smaller numbers were from second-time buyers (5%), defecting customers (14%) and inactive customers (8%). 

Alex Timlin, senior vice president of verticals at Emarsys, said: “Our own customers — especially supermarkets — have told us over the past month that they’re dealing with not just more customers but more types of customers than they know how to deal with.

“It’s now more important than ever to be able to quickly distinguish new customers from loyal ones, so you can target them with campaigns in the right way and do so quickly. Artificial intelligence is a huge asset to marketers here because it can analyse your entire customer base quickly to determine who’s new and who’s loyal. Then you can set up separate automated digital campaigns for each type of customer.”

UK shopping behaviour changing – 60% say for good: study

Most UK shoppers have changed the way they buy as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study suggests. 

Ecommerce agency Melody questioned more than 2,000 UK shoppers – and 92% said they were shopping differently as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Thirteen per cent of respondents said they were doing more online shopping during working hours than they did before. A quarter (25%) said they were buying goods online they previously bought in shops – and 19% are turning to Amazon to do that shopping. 

Six in 10 (60%) say they’ll continue to buy the way they are now, with 12% saying they are likely to carry on buying items they previously bought on the high street online. However,15% believe they will do less shopping. A third of all UK shoppers (33%) say they now do less shopping of any type, rising to 40% of women. Female shoppers are also now more likely to shop online instead of in stores – and much more likely than men (29% vs. 18%) to no longer shop on high streets at all.

Men, found the study, visit ecommerce sites more often than women to browse because of the lockdown (13% of men, 8% of women) – and 17% of men say they now do more online shopping during working hours, compared to only 9% of women.

Mark Burgess, business director at Melody, said: “Clearly we’re living through unprecedented times and it’s hard to separate anticipated consumer intent from actual behaviour, but the lockdown has significantly impacted the UK’s retail landscape and our shopping habits.

“According to our research, the shift to online retail looks here to stay. More people are trialling e-commerce channels at more numerous points on their shopper journey and as ecommerce absorbs the role played by the physical environment.

“It’s no surprise that companies that have never previously considered offering an e-commerce solution, or indeed needed to, are now trying to adapt their business model – or at the very least, enhance their current content and media solutions across etail.”

How chargebacks have evolved

Credit card chargebacks are now more likely to be from service failures than from fraud, Forter analysis suggests. The data finds that while service chargebacks use to be 60% lower than fraud chargebacks, service chargebacks are now 50% higher than those for fraud. Most chargebacks between early February and mid-March came as flights were cancelled, but after that there was an additional rise related to the food and drink industry as well as from grocery and delivery services. 

The analysis is from the Forter Global Merchant Network, which includes more than 100 customers around the world, turning over more than $150bn in commerce transactions a year. It shows that the rise in service chargebacks comes as up to 75% of customers are now new customers – as as their expectations do not meet the reality of the service they are receiving.

Retailers who are benefitting form an upturn in business – according to Forter data – include those selling home and garden products (+369% transaction volumes), including mattresses and bedding (+575%), groceries and grocery delivery (+243%), alcohol (+327%), beauty products (+216%), clothing and accessories (+106%) and marketplaces (+92%). Sales of virtual coins (+61%) and computers (+49%) are both up. Those suffering include those selling jewellery (-25%) and travel, with transaction volumes down for those selling hotel rooms (-87%), flights (-95%), ride sharing (-89%) and suitcases (-84%). 

Online shopping grows around Europe

People locked down at home in Italy, France and Spain are doing more of their shopping online, according to data from the IRI Consumer Spending Tracker, for the week to April 12. 

Most online shopping now via mobile

Shoppers are doing most of their online shopping via their mobile phones and devices during the coronavirus pandemic, data from Bloomreach suggests. Bloomreach figures for the period between April 12 and 18 saw 61% of online purchases take place on mobile devices, while 39% were on desktop. 

Search traffic, total traffic and conversions came consistently from mobile devices, peaking at night. Desktop traffic was highest during lunch hours – at 24% of conversions, while 19% of conversions at that time came via mobile. At night, 18% of conversions were via mobile, while 13% were on desktop. 

New click and collect farmers’ market launches in Edinburgh

Edinburgh food producer Sonia Nicolas-Garcia has launched Edinburgh’s first click and collect farmer’s market to support local producers during the coronavirus crisis.

Customers can buy goods from a wide range of local food and drink producers all in one place and then collect purchases from a local restaurant being used as a collection point once a week. 

The virtual farmer’s market for Edinburgh West has launched with the help of The Great British Food Hub, a platform that Gillian Mackay, a pig farmer from Strathblane, founded two years ago.

Mackay said: “Food Hubs are a fantastic way for producers to sell direct to local communities, food miles are low and there is no wastage as all items are pre-ordered. They have become something of a lifeline to many small, local food and drink producers who saw their commercial customers close their doors overnight, hugely impacting on their ability to continue trading. We’re seeing a 500% increase in sales across our Food Hubs. If anything good were to come out of Covid-19 maybe it will be more of an awareness of food security and the benefits of supporting businesses producing food and drink right here on our doorstep rather than relying on supermarkets who have been letting us all down in recent weeks.”

Nicolas-Garcia said: “I’ve been selling my produce as a food producer since The Great British Food Hub launched and have been desperate to set up my own hub. It’s so easy, customers can order online each week until midnight on Monday from our super-secure market then come along to our venue, The Black Hoof restaurant on Dalry Road on Wednesdays where we will be operating a contactless collection at the door ensuring that all social distancing measures are met. As a producer it’s great, I know exactly what to cook or bake each week for the Food Hub customers so there’s never any wastage and I get a much better return than selling through conventional farmer’s markets. ”

So far 10 producers including Alba Seafood, Woodmill Game, Ardunan Farm, Heather Hills Farm, The Wee Honey Bee, Isle of Skye Sea Salt and Bon Accord Soft Drinks have signed up and you can order from them now! More producers are joining daily.

New customers can simply register, verify their email address via the website or on the app then login to shop.

Image: Fotolia

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