COVID-19 has forced a revolution in the retail sector over the past few months as shopper behaviour has shifted at an extraordinary pace.
Of all the many developments we have witnessed, probably the most significant long-term change in behaviour will be the rapid acceleration of online shopping. Consider that the proportion of all retail sales sold through the online channel increased from around 18% before the outbreak to 33% at the peak during lock-down. And crucially, even as stores reopened and restrictions have eased, the level of online shopping remains at 29%. Particularly for fashion retailers and department stores with large store estates, trading has been exceedingly difficult.
Food and grocery retailers have been no exception, having enjoyed massive growth in their online sales since the start of lock down – in August for example, online food sales were up a remarkable 90% on the same month in 2019. In large part this has been through traditional online grocery, with the likes of Tesco.com and Asda.com substantially increasing capacity to meet rising demand.
But we have also seen tremendous growth and innovation in emerging areas of online grocery, from the rise of services like Deliveroo as a grocery delivery channel, to the launch of transactional e-commerce services from many smaller and local retailers. These emerging developments are especially interesting, not only because they provide new sales opportunities, but because they are reshaping the online grocery market at a more fundamental level.
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