A look back at what 2020 did for retail: Four direct consequences of the COVID-19  pandemic

The death of brick-and-mortar retail was long seen as a major threat to the retail industry, but Covid-19 has capsized everything.

Below are the four direct consequences the industry must grapple with.

1. During the first wave of the pandemic and the  ensuing lockdown, physical sales plummeted by nearly 70 percent, while online sales almost doubled. Some chains were able to compensate sales drop to a great extent through online sales in already established online stores. Of the stores that did not have an online presence, there was an explosion in establishments taking the e-commerce leap. However, this did not save them through the first lockdown. For many newly established online stores, sales were not influenced during the first stage.

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The graph shows how physical shopping declined during spring lockdown. The 2019 figures are in light blue to show what normal shopping looks like without a pandemic. Each bar represents the week number.

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The graph shows how online sales gained momentum during the pandemic. Light blue bar shows the 2019 figures for comparison.

2. After Easter, businesses began reopening to a new retail reality and a different world.  Consumers returned to their practice of shopping more in the stores again, and things normalized during the summer.

The future for brick-and-mortar retailing looked bleak  as this pandemic has pushed shoppers to e-commerce sites. The radical shift in consumer behavior from bricks-to-clicks triggered an increased  appetite  for  online shopping and many expected that this growing trend is likely to outlast the pandemic. But there was a resurgence of physical store shopping together with online retailing through the summer accompanied by dramatic changes in customer’s purchasing journey. It became a lot more hybrid between physical and online. Far more people did research online before they went to the store (research online purchase offline / webrooming), and thus made targeted and efficient purchases. They turned to technology to browse and order products and utilized services such as BOPIS (buy online pick-up in store) that became more relevant than ever.

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The graph shows how turnover in the physical store during the summer months almost normalized compared to the summer of 2019.

3. With restrictions being eased and  an improved  recovery through the summer, autumn walked in with new measures. This affected trade in stores and online.

The stores that had established themselves online in the spring of 2020 (12.3-1.6) received a return on investment due to stay-at-home  mandates and more people shopping online.

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The graph shows how physical shopping deviates from normal shopping compared to the same period in 2019.

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In the graph, you can see online shopping and how it increased again during wave number two from the autumn.

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The graph shows turnover per week in the online stores that were established between March 12 and April 30 (the highest bar is black week).

4. After years of doom-and-gloom reports warning of the impending collapse of traditional bricks-and-mortar retail, it took a global outbreak to stem the tide of this popular opinion. The pandemic has been the digital catalyst brick-and-mortar retailers particularly needed. It has turbo-charged the digital migration of in-store operations that otherwise would have taken several years.

Brands such as Helly Hansen, Stormberg and Accessorize have adapted their stores at the height of global lockdowns and invested in Unified Commerce and POS to appeal to the tech-savvy shoppers who are on the move between online and offline channels before the purchase is completed. Due to the restructuring, these brands will be relevant and stronger in a post-Covid world. Trends such as BORIS (buy online, return in store, BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), BOSS (buy online, ship to store), Webrooming, Showrooming and Endless Aisle have been accelerated by the pandemic and will stay prevalent through 2021.