You don’t have to be a business guru to know that 2020 has been a very, very bad year for retail.
For much of the year the majority of shops were forced to shut their doors, and even though this government-mandated restriction has now largely been lifted, footfall has been down, spend has massively decreased year-on-year, and consumer confidence is at record lows.
Research carried out recently by PwC and the Local Data Company found that a staggering 11,000 store outlets have closed their doors definitively in 2020, while only 5,000 new openings have taken place. That’s a net loss of 6,000 stores.
To put that into some context, 2019 saw a net loss of around 2,500 UK stores over the whole year, a figure which was at the time regarded as a record high.
Retail executives are, in a bid to halt this decline, now looking to do that which they have so long advised against – they are going to put all of their eggs in a solitary basket. The upcoming Christmas period offers an unprecedented opportunity to revitalise sales and bolster levels of customer assurance, and the majority of retailers are going to seek to grab this chance with both hands.
The key is ensuring that this sales push also conforms to social distancing rules. Nobody – not retail executives, shoppers or NHS employees – wants to see the traditional mad dash for last-minute gifts as Christmas looms, and so it is going to be essential to encourage people to make purchases but get everything bought earlier than normal.
The benefits of this will be manifold – from minimising Covid-19 transmission to letting consumers know that shops are adapting so as to be as effective and efficient as possible – and, if handled correctly, could potentially result in an uptick in customer numbers into 2021.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which is very often at the forefront of spearheading campaigns designed to reinvigorate the retail sector, is currently in the first week of what has been labelled a ‘two-week marketing blitz’ which will encourage shoppers to think carefully about what they want to purchase prior to heading outside, the time of day they are venturing out, and whether there might be a better time to go in a bid to minimise queues and congestion.
The BRC is also hoping this gentle push will incite people not to wait until the last minute to do their online shopping. It goes without saying that retailers are much more able to cope with mild upticks in demand than sudden ones. If too many people leave their ordering until the middle of December, some orders may not be able to be fulfilled, and this will only hamper consumer confidence more – regardless of whether it is the fault of the retailers or not.
The next few months are liable to shape the future of retail in the UK, and though such a statement may seem like something of an exaggeration, it is absolutely the viewpoint that retailers are taking.