A recent report by Global Data in collaboration with Amazon describes changing consumer shopping habits during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report highlights a stark increase in online sales, but stresses that the online channel did not dominate during the peak of the pandemic — the majority of sales during lockdown were made at physical stores that remained open. In addition, the highest growth rates over the past few months are attributed to multichannel retailers, rather than pure-play online retailers.
The pandemic has catalysed closer integration of physical retail and online spaces, with many traditional retailers emphasising or introducing additional services such as curbside pick-up. These services have been well-received; almost 68% of US consumers say they will use curbside collection more, even after the pandemic has subsided. Also, in countries that have reopened post-Covid, there has been a “mini-rush” back to bricks & mortar retailers, highlighting how much consumers – especially in the US, UK and France – have missed the social interaction that physical stores offer.
As a result, the penetration rate for online is coming down as consumers resume physical shopping. According to the survey, penetration will remain elevated compared to 2019 but the peaks seen during lockdown were exceptional, not a new normal. If anything, the report suggests that the role of the physical store is actually being strengthened in some ways. In the USA, Global Data projects around 35.7% of non-food sales transacted online will be supported by a physical store this year – more than in 2019.
Comment from Laura Howard Werling, Market Analyst CIMA, Nicholas Hall Group of Companies: The Global Data report challenges the narrative that the pandemic, and subsequent growth of the online channel, spells the end for physical retail. Instead, retail stores have performed well over the past few months and are successfully utilising a multichannel approach to adapt to the disruption. Consumers have been satisfied with this approach and it should be no surprise: the modern consumer views online and retail stores as one market and navigates both spaces seamlessly to achieve maximum efficiency when shopping.
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