Aug 23, 2021
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UK saw biggest online lockdown surge in English-speaking world, fashion was key

Aug 23, 2021

The pandemic has spurred a boom in online shopping globally. However, in the English-speaking world, the UK saw the biggest acceleration, a new study has shown.


Online shopping app Wholee Prime commissioned research comparing the US, Canada, Australia and the UK and found that online retail sales in the latter grew from a low of 19% immediately before the pandemic to a high of 36% at the height of the Covid crisis in November last year, and also in January during Lockdown 3. 

The country also saw the proportion of online sales averaging 29%, which was well ahead of the 15% seen in the US, 9% in Australia and 7% in Canada. 

The study showed that the UK online retail market was the most reactive to changes brought about by pandemic restrictions and that the country has seen a sustained increase in the share of online clothing sales, while the figures have stagnated in the US.

That could well have been linked to the severity of the pandemic in the UK as cautious consumers avoided physical shops even when they were open. But it could also be connected to the fact that Britain was a very online-focused market even before the pandemic.

The pandemic impact not only helped e-specialists such as Boohoo and ASOS thrive but saw online laggards like M&S making a big leap forward.

The study, called Covid and Online Retail: The pandemic and its effect on global shopping habits, demonstrates that throughout the period, the UK “continuously enjoyed a higher proportion of online sales as a total of all retail sales relative to the other markets”. 

Also notable is the fact that, as shops began to reopen at the start of the summer, the share of online household goods sold fell below that of clothing. Except for April 2021, the proportion of online clothing sales has consistently been higher than that for household goods. It means that the online fashion shopping habit appears to be here to stay.

The report’s authors said that with ongoing Covid fears, UK consumers may be more relaxed in terms of purchasing products off the shelf, but their feelings regarding trying on clothes in a physical store remain cautious.

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