Despite retailers’ concerns over whether online shopping would continue to dominate once lockdown restrictions began to ease, traditional retail appears to be making a strong comeback.
Following three months of widespread lockdown across the UK, retail sales for April were up 46.3% in comparison to April 2019 (2020 data notwithstanding), according to BRC-KPMG’s retail sales monitor.
UK Head of Retail at KPMG, Paul Martin said:
“Twelve months on from the first lockdown, retailers will be delighted with the way the re-opening of the high street was greeted by shoppers in April, eager to get into stores and engage once more with physical shopping.”
While food retail showed a 9.9% increase in sales in April, non-food retail leapt by 25% as overall spending surged week-on-week throughout the month.
But why the rise in bricks and mortar sales when the same products can be easily purchased online as they have done for the last 12 months?
The combination of suppressed demand and so-called ‘accidental savers’ who managed to stash their cash after cancelled holidays and working from home are believed to be largely responsible for the boom.
BRC Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson said:
“With the short-term pent-up demand for the shopping experience drawing consumers back to stores, non-food sales across stores and online increased by a quarter between March and April.”
So, it’s not just the products which are in high demand, but the shopping experience itself, and the feeling of a return to normality which the public longs for, playing a large part in demand for many consumers.
The weather also had its part to play in clothing sales in April. Cool spring weather combined with the freedom to leave the home saw many rushing out to buy new outdoor essentials; items which consumers simply had not needed over the last year whilst squirreled away in their homes. Add to this, the restrictions lifting in hospitality and events, and we can predict that clothing retail will continue to grow as people splurge on the latest fashion for those long awaited social gatherings.
Henry Birch, Chief Executive of the Very Group, agrees:
“Once nationwide vaccinations are underway, I would expect fashion to perform really strongly. There will be pent-up demand and high levels of savings among many consumers who will be keen to resume normal life, go out and go on holiday.”
Primark is one of the few large retailers who has resisted the urge to take their business online. Their owner ABF’s Finance Director, John Bason, said:
“People want to get through this. The vaccination programme is building and people will want to go back to having holidays, mixing with people and – guess what? People will want to shop at Primark again.”
Across the fashion industry, footwear, jewellery and accessories experienced astonishing 3-figure growth in April alone as shoppers can try before they buy once more, again, proving that there is still demand for a traditional shopping experience.
Many online retail categories continue to grow, but as the weather improves and consumers are able to leave their homes for a wider range of activities, the rate of growth is slowing. It does, however, demonstrate that even with surging bricks and mortar sales, the online shopper is here to stay. Retail Economics forecasts that online sales will account for 26.1% of all spending in 2021; a drop on 2020’s figures, but still going strong.
Boss of Joules, Nick Jones, believes the growth of eCommerce will continue in 2021:
“In the short term, there will be a continued acceleration of digital. Brands that have purpose and a point of view will be very important and are meeting customer needs in the here and now. Then, in the longer term, it is about a balance of physical and digital that will be required,”
April’s figures demonstrate that despite the high street comeback, online shopping has cemented its position as an integral part of the retail industry in the UK. In order to take advantage of the shifting landscape, retailers must embrace new technology and consider the move to omnichannel in order to future-proof their business.
If you’re a bricks and mortar retail operation, call our team on 0800 138 0050 to discuss how to expand your business online with our omnichannel retail experts.