ecommerce fills the gaps as Shops close during coronavirus lockdown

March 2020 sees highest ever move to eCommerce

eCommerce is helping to fill the gaps as physical shops close during coronavirus lockdown.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, online sales (as a proportion of all sales) reached a record high of 22.3% in March 2020. When that number is filtered down to just retail, 21.9% of all UK retail was made through eCommerce in March, as consumers switched to online purchasing following the pandemic.

Overall, retail is down. Many UK stores were forced to close their doors On 23 March to comply with official government guidance around coronavirus (COVID-19).  The monthly retail sales volume fell by 5.1% in March with clothing/fashion seeing a fall of 34.8% against February. Budget clothing retailer Primark has always focussed on its physical stores rather than eCommerce and has seen its sales plunge from £650 million per month during the outbreak.

Those with the ability to sell online and suitable fulfilment have been in a better position to keep trading. In some cases, those businesses have seen growth, especially in food. Many local, independent shops who were able to adapt & innovate have managed to benefit too.

The value of online retail in March 2020 is up against the same time last year. This is despite the overall reduction is sales volume.

Value of Internet Sales (United Kingdom Retail only):

March 2020: £1,521,800,000
March 2019:  £1,345,200,000
March 2018: £1,175,700,000
March 2017: £1,009,100,000

Source: ONS

Traditionally the highest spikes are in the run-up to the festive season. In more recent years, Black Friday sales in November have made a considerable contribution. The previous highest was November 2018 at 21.6% & November 2019 at 21.5%. The spike in March is a symptom of the lockdown and not in-line with the pre-existing trend. It will be interesting to see how this continues during lockdown and what impact it will have on our (already changing) high streets once restrictions are eventually eased, as some consumer may not return to physical stores.

Graph showing percentage of retail sales being made online

Source: Office for National Statistics April 2020