Nov 4, 2020
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'Non-essential' e-tailers upbeat for future, festive trading critical to survival for many

Nov 4, 2020

The majority of UK’s non-essential online retailers are optimistic about the future despite big concerns over festive trading as many areas move into tighter lockdown restrictions, according to survey by Global-e.

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The October survey of 200 UK discretionary online and multichannel British retailers, including fashion, department store, sports & leisure and health & beauty retailers, showed 67% say they are confident about the future of their business. However, 62% also expressed concerns that Q4 sales will not be enough to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Last month’s survey showed that 48% of all British retailers then said a second wave of Covid-19 and a further lockdown was their biggest concern and 63% believed a second wave lockdown would be damaging.

Importantly, 70% believe that festive trading in the final quarter is more important to their business this year than any year previously, with 67% admitting it will be vital to their survival. As a result, 68% plan to begin discounting earlier this year than in previous years.

It seems fashion retailers were the least worried of those surveyed with 46% viewing the upcoming Q4 festive period more important to their business this year than any year previously, while sports and leisure (86%), health and beauty (72%) and department stores (67%) value this period more.

Although just 27% saw Brexit as a major concern, 66% of respondents were concerned the introduction of tariffs for products sold to consumers in the European Economic Area will negatively impact sales to the EU.

Looking back, as the first lockdown forced physical stores to close, e-commerce was a ‘lifeline’ for 69% of those surveyed, with 63% having invested more in e-commerce as a result. As of last month, 51% saw growth in their domestic sales since the outbreak of the pandemic.

And just how important the international online market is to retailers, 69% now see international e-commerce becoming more important to their business.

Of those retailers that sell internationally, 44% have seen positive growth in overseas markets since the beginning of the pandemic, with 69% now anticipating international e-commerce becoming more important to their business in the future.

The survey showed 69% of fashion retailers have invested the most in e-commerce following Covid-19, just ahead of department stores (65%) and household and DIY (65%) retailers

Sports and leisure (86%) and health and beauty retailers (72%) are the most convinced that international e-commerce will be of greater importance in future trading, compared to 62% of fashion retailers.

However, while 54% of fashion retailers and 48% of health and beauty retailers saw a surge in their international sales, only 29% of the sports and leisure retailers surveyed saw such an increase.

Nir Debbi, co-founder and CMO at Global-e, said: “The global pandemic has no doubt sent shockwaves through the retail sector, with many clearly seeing their e-commerce channel as a lifeline in the wake of mass store closures. However, the accelerated shift towards online shopping worldwide isn’t equally benefiting everyone.

“Many British retailers have also reaped the rewards of cross-border e-commerce, and 69% value it as a crucial part of their strategy’s future. Indeed, with the surge we’ve seen in cross-border e-commerce trading this year, it is clear that it is a vital opportunity for revenue growth and has become a key to survive the decrease in domestic sales and the closure of physical stores."

Debbi added: "Previous years had shown that the pre-holiday peak is a global phenomenon, with shoppers worldwide looking to benefit from the different promotions. Together with the consistent increase in cross-border trade, expending their reach to international markets will enable brands and retailers to better capitalise on the upcoming peak and drive Q4 sales.

“However, if British retailers want to weather the storm successfully, the key is a strong e-commerce strategy – both domestically and internationally. Brands that will be able to provide shoppers with an optimal shopping experience that is localised to their market, will be in a stronger position in the long-term and drive sustainable revenue growth.”


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