Deserted stores, less choice … has shopping changed for ever? | Retail industry

After almost two years of disruption, Covid-19 has changed how we store for ever. It has altered not solely what we purchase, however how we purchase it. Massive purchases contain clicks, not shopping journeys, and distant working has turned the house interiors market into the brand new quick trend.

It has additionally signalled the tip of overwhelming choice for shoppers, analysts say, as gaps on cabinets and lengthy supply instances for gadgets equivalent to automobiles and sofas grow to be a irritating reality of life.

Way of life modifications resulting from well being or environmental considerations are additionally serving to new companies get off the bottom. Buyers are pouring billions into speedy grocery supply, whereas shopping for secondhand garments and renting furnishings is getting into the mainstream. On excessive streets, cheaper rents are beginning to appeal to impartial shops.

Here’s a take a look at a number of the large modifications going down.

Grocery shopping

The pandemic has induced main upheaval within the UK’s £212bn grocery industry. The return of the weekly store in the course of the strictest durations of lockdown appeared as if it had saved the large supermarkets from a midlife disaster, solely for a military of speedy grocery supply companies, equivalent to Getir, Gorillas and Jiffy, to emerge with the promise of delivering your groceries in less than half an hour.

The IGD, the commerce physique for the meals and shopper items industry, says this so-called fast commerce has “exploded” on to the scene and is now a “channel in its personal proper”. It estimates 13% of UK consumers now use these companies, with gross sales hitting £1.4bn this yr and on monitor to double inside 5.

Bryan Roberts, an analyst at Shopfloor Insights, says the well being disaster has created the sort of market situations the place persons are “prepared to pay a supply price for a 20-quid, 15-minute, supply expertise”, though he provides: “Time will inform if these fashions are going to be sustainable.”

The expanded on-line companies supplied by the large chains have additionally gained thousands and thousands of recent clients in the course of the pandemic, however with inflation working at a 10-year excessive, the sands are shifting once more, with discounters equivalent to Aldi and Lidl the seemingly winners within the coming months as Britons hunt down cheaper shops.

There could also be extra methods to buy today, however the provide chain issues within the background have prompted the most important grocery manufacturers to take a leaf out the discounters’ e book and scale back their ranges to grow to be extra environment friendly.

Richard Wilding, professor of provide chain technique at Cranfield Faculty of Administration, says that the “abundance of choice we’ve had goes to vary”.

“You used to have the ability to purchase 60 various kinds of pasta within the grocery store: then, in the course of the pandemic, producers began rationalising their ranges so unexpectedly you could possibly solely get 20 sorts,” he says. “Having new and fascinating merchandise has historically been a means of making shopper demand, however corporations are mainly saying ‘we’ve obtained to deal with the higher-margin issues’.”

A Jiffy courier in his blue uniform hands a bag of items to a young man at the door of his flat
Fast grocery deliveries by couriers equivalent to Jiffy are an rising menace to supermarkets. {Photograph}: Mark Chilvers

Working from dwelling

The shift to dwelling working has had such a profound influence on how we reside that it has grow to be a retail super-trend in its personal proper. It has altered spending priorities, as cash normally spent on international holidays or commuting is ploughed into dwelling furnishings and revamps.

Being dwelling 24/7 has additionally resulted in an acceleration of the shift to on-line shopping. It took eight years for on-line gross sales to double their share of spending to twenty%, however inside simply nine months during the pandemic, that figure touched 36% final yr. This yr’s easing of restrictions noticed it fall again to a nonetheless substantial 26%.

“Working from dwelling has changed each the sample of shopping and the sample of demand,” says Richard Hyman, an impartial retail analyst. “The form of markets like trend, meals, magnificence and homewares have changed, however the query is: have they alighted on a brand new, everlasting place? It’s nonetheless very fluid as a result of nobody is aware of what quantity of persons are going to proceed working from dwelling.”

The profile of shopper spending has changed dramatically: for instance, consumers have spent an additional £503m in DIY shops this yr, in line with figures from retail information agency Kantar. Britons additionally took up new pastimes: 1.2 million new gardeners spent an additional £51m on crops and associated paraphernalia.

“Not everyone’s job is home-based however typically the best way we’re socialising and shopping is rather more centred across the dwelling,” says Joanna Parman at Kantar.

“We’re travelling less far on the weekend for shopping journeys or to eat out. So we’re more likely to be visiting native or impartial shops than earlier than.”

She provides: “A lot of persons are divested in how they give the impression of being and invested in how their dwelling seems to be so it’s Instagrammable and is wanting good within the background while you’re in your cellphone or video name. They’re investing much more of their properties and you could possibly argue we’re seeing some ‘quick homewares’ traits coming by way of.”


Britons have swapped fashion for consolation in the course of the pandemic: witness the 88% enhance in loungewear gross sales final yr. The closure of excessive road shops for lengthy durations pressured consumers to purchase the garments they wanted on-line and there could also be no going again.

The info agency Retail Economics estimates that half of the £51bn spent on clothes this yr may have been purchased on web sites. Come 2025 it thinks that determine will likely be two-thirds of the overall. That is already the case for electricals, which has been one of many quickest markets to maneuver on-line.

“What’s clear from the pandemic is that we as a nation have been in a position to adapt and shift our behaviours, typically in a single day,” says Parman. “There’s not quite a lot of coverage saying we shouldn’t socialise however folks have already stepped again from consuming out. We drive quite a lot of the change in our habits and the longer they’re in place, the extra seemingly they’re to stay.”

There are different large forces at work on this market too. The style industry is a big polluter and beneath rising stress to get itself on a extra sustainable footing, so extra corporations are experimenting with promoting secondhand garments and even renting them out, a mannequin that has beforehand targeted on outfits for particular events.

The UK’s greatest clothes retailer, Marks & Spencer, is working a small trial to check demand for renting its attire and coats – a pattern that’s extra superior in furnishings, the place the likes of John Lewis are renting out sofas, sideboards and desks.

As at all times, fashion-conscious teenagers obtained there first and are already spending their money on secondhand garments websites equivalent to Depop and Vinted, that are reporting large gross sales will increase. Parman thinks the clothes rental market is a “trickier” mannequin however predicts the pre-loved trend market will take off much more in 2022.

A teenager uses her phone to photograph a piece of clothing being held up by her friend for a secondhand clothes app
Gross sales have soared on secondhand garments apps
equivalent to Vinted and Depop.
{Photograph}: Photononstop/Alamy


The secondhand increase has already arrived within the automotive market, the place hovering used automotive costs, up 31% since April, are stoking inflation. Normally about 2.5 million new automobiles a yr are registered within the UK however that quantity sank to 1.6 million in 2020 with the same determine anticipated this yr as a scarcity of pc chips hits manufacturing. This shortfall is likely one of the components pushing up secondhand costs.

Ian Plummer, industrial director of the Auto Dealer market, says Covid has pressured a reluctant industry to embrace the net. Patrons need to have the ability to do extra of the legwork on-line, from getting a valuation for their present automotive to making use of for finance. Nonetheless, given the price concerned – in expenditure phrases, a automotive is second solely to a house for the typical family – “seeing, touching, smelling” your chosen car stays an vital remaining step.

There has been some upside to the tumult, with the latest figures exhibiting a doubling of gross sales of electrical autos. Virtually 22,000 pure electrical autos have been registered in November, greater than double the determine in the identical month of 2020.

“A brand new electrical car launched each 10 days in the midst of 2021 and there are much more automobiles coming subsequent yr,” says Plummer. “It’s an enormous shift out there: extra provide, extra advertising, creating extra pleasure, which has been spurred on by the gas disaster.”


The speedy unfold of the Omicron variant has been devastating information for store-based retailers as shopper numbers tail off on what are among the many most vital buying and selling days of the yr within the run-up to Christmas. With the Covid disaster seemingly removed from over, the jury stays out on what the long-term penalties will likely be for the excessive road.

The stream of family names that failed pre-Covid was accelerated by the lockdowns. Current British Retail Consortium information exhibits the variety of empty shops sitting at a report excessive of 14.5%.

The disaster has pulled down rents however eye-watering enterprise charges stay an enormous drawback that the federal government appears reluctant to take care of. There are glimmers of hope, although, with the identical information pointing to a declining emptiness charge in some areas, as independents transfer in to fill the areas left by defunct chain shops.

However there’s, with out query, extra painful change to come back. Hyman factors to the £90bn of non-food gross sales which have moved on-line over the previous 20 years, a interval when there has been no “significant” discount in retailer house.

“The price of promoting one thing in a store is now rather more costly since you’ve obtained a excessive fastened price base and decrease gross sales,” he says. “When all that is over, we’re nonetheless going to have too many outlets and too many web sites.”

Newest Information At present