Is retail nearing a return to normal? Electronic tail sales say yes, actual footsteps say no

Retail in the UK is increasingly returning to normal – or at least the ‘new normal’ – as the pandemic recedes. But that new normal means that while online activity appears to have returned to a recognizable level, physical retail still has some way to go before a recovery can be declared. is a completed deal.

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Latest IMRG Capgemini The Online Retail Index (which tracks the online sales of more than 200 retailers) shows that online retail sales fell 27% year-over-year in February.

Monthly sales fell just 7.7%, “which indicates a return to near-normal spending, as typical declines over the period are between 3% and 5%.

The index showed overall clothing sales down 4.6%, mainly due to a drop in spending on accessories (-13.3%) and underwear (-28.3%). The lingerie drop is perhaps surprising since February contains Valentine’s Day, which is usually a big shopping season for the lingerie sector.

Online retail sales saw their highest growth ever last February with a 60% increase as a result of the UK being in lockdown at the time. and consumers who weren’t previously big fans of online shopping have gotten used to it since the first lockdown in March 2020.

The report authors said that while February’s drop to -27% means it replaces January 2022 (-24.4%) as the worst month of growth ever, “con this number is not as negative as it seems”, compares with “astonishing 60% growth in February 2021”

Instead, if we look at February 2022 compared to February 2020, sales are actually 16.1% higher than before the pandemic.

The report also said Average Basket Value (ABV) rose for the first time since hitting a peak last August – rising from £108 in January to £124 for February.

And while clothing overall fell, at the category level, womenswear and menswear performed well (+25.7 percent and +17% respectively). But the negative growth of accessories and lingerie canceled out this increase overall.

Andy Mulcahy, director of strategy and insights, IMRG: “The unprecedented disruption from lockdowns has made understanding wild fluctuations in online growth at times difficult. Now, for the first time since [the pandemic] Starting off, the month-to-month trading patterns appear to have stabilized for a couple of months in a row, which tells us the online/offline divide is presumably now set to the ‘new normal’ very expected. However, just as the pandemic appears to be easing in the UK, it appears global events could bring further supply chain and economic impacts. From a businesses perspective, ‘normal’ in the 2020s means chaos and sudden change will be difficult to navigate.”

Meanwhile, the latest football figures from Retail Traffic Indexed by Ipsos shows that non-grocery stores still face challenges in returning to pre-pandemic levels.

It said that across the UK in the week to March 5, landings were down 23.3% from the pre-pandemic period and 5% from the previous week. Cities appear to be performing worse with a drop of almost 29% from pre-pandemic and a drop of almost 6% for the week.

And all kinds of destinations are in negative territory. High Street is down more than 26% from two years ago and 2.6% from last week; retail parks fell 16% and 7.5% on the same basis; and shopping malls fell by nearly 24% and 4.6% respectively.

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