In the last months of 2021, Covid-19 and the effects thereof are still very much a part of our everyday lives. Vaccinations may be on the rise, but infections still come in waves, we use masks, sanitiser, and lockdowns never seem too far off the horizon. With the dread, confusion, and illness that has come with the pandemic, positive effects are also all around us. For ecommerce, things have never been better. Lockdowns forced shop owners and customers alike to become more agile and creative. Online sales are on the rise, and shopping is easier than ever before. Let’s examine some of the ways Covid-19 has impacted ecommerce in the UK.
Online clothing sales have skyrocketed
Brick-and-mortar stores are becoming gradually less necessary by the day. As strange as it is to consider that, given how prevalent and ubiquitous they are, this decrease in prominence makes sense. We don’t need to go to physical shops anymore to buy clothes. It’s easier and more convenient to do it all from home. Online retail sales increased by £2.7 billion during the pandemic in 2020, indicating a significant move towards a digital dressing room.
Clothing preferences are also changing, with many brands starting life online without ever moving into a physical store. Fashion rentals are also on the rise, driving down the need for single-brand stores.
Ecommerce in all forms is increasing
In the first quarter of 2020, ecommerce accounted for 20.3% of sales in the UK. Fast forward to the second quarter, and that proportion swelled to 31.3% (see this report for more details). These statistics are only increasing, suggesting that retailers’ ability to sell online is finally meeting the consumers’ demand for increasingly convenient shopping.
By contrast, physical retail is declining significantly. In 2018, retail sales in the UK totalled £565 billion. In 2020, they dropped to £560 billion. Of course, £560 billion is nothing to sniff at, but a £5 billion loss is drastic, especially given the increase of online sales from £84 billion in 2018 to a staggering £130 billion in 2020 (if you’re not too quick with mental arithmetic, that’s a £46 billion increase).
Traditional delivery disruptions on the rise
Headlines of “supply chain issues” are regularly topping news feeds in the UK. Partly due to Covid and partly due to Brexit, the mixture of factors is having a negative impact on consumers’ ability to get what they want. Limitations on migrant worker visas make it difficult for Europeans to work in the UK (lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers, et al). This impacts the ability for goods to get to where they need to go.
However, the mission of the entrepreneur is to be resourceful. These new challenges present an opportunity for businesses to pivot. Where goods were once only sourced from European countries, UK business owners are being forced to consider suppliers from other countries or, indeed, the UK itself. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and there’s no time like now to be an innovative entrepreneur in the UK.
According to this data, 38% of people in the UK bought something online for the first time during the pandemic. That is an encouraging statistic. It means that over 25 million people tried something new. Given that online retail is increasing, it’s safe to assume that those 25 million people are continuing to buy online (as well as all the other millions who were already doing it). Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way we interact with each other and with the digital world. But, business is booming, so get in on the action.
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