With many countries still in lockdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic, retailers around the world are finding new ways to survive the crisis. The pandemic has put millions of jobs in the UK at risk as businesses struggle to cope with the financial crisis created by the lockdown. The hardest-hit sectors have been retail businesses and restaurants that depend on shoppers. However, this pandemic has created a surge in demand for retail supplies, with online retail sales estimated to reach $6.5 trillion by 2023. In recent weeks, numerous retail stores have begun online operations while some are beginning online sales for the first time to adapt to the new consumer environment.
A survey from IMRG reported that online retail sales in the UK rose by 22% at the beginning of April compared to the same time in previous years. While these numbers suggest a positive picture for online retailers, it is limited to specific categories. For instance, the beauty sector saw an approximate rise of 140% at the start of April, while home and garden rose by 70% and electrical rose by 90%. In contrast, the clothing sector saw online sales drop by 20%. The alcohol sector has also seen a significant rise in online demand since the COVID 19 lockdown. One of the brands benefiting is Naked Wines, which forecasts a revenue rise of £200 million for 2020.
Most retail stores in the UK have shifted to e-commerce. Aidi, for instance, began selling groceries online for the first time. It launched a website with an ‘essentials box’ option, which includes items like toilet paper, antibacterial hand wash and food. This move follows that of other supermarkets like Morrisons and Marks & Spencer, which are also selling boxes of essentials online to vulnerable people during the lockdown. According to the job website Indeed, supermarkets are rushing to recruit more warehouse drivers and workers to cope with the rise in online demand.
According to the latest research, online shopping continues to increase. This sudden shift to online has tested many businesses’ ability to be flexible and successfully scale their businesses to meet rising shoppers’ demands. Ideally, crises are part of the business cycle, and this too shall pass. However, retail businesses that come out of this intact will have learned many lessons on service delivery, and those that do not will have learned the importance of technological commitment in business.