Sharp decrease in online orders as non-essential retail reopens in the UK

Jessica Carvalho observes the impact of retail reopening on e-commerce, and whether brick-and-mortar will prevail in the internet era. 

The light at the end of the tunnel became brighter last Monday, as the government further eased lockdown restrictions. The latest step in the roadmap for lockdown lifting sees gyms, pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating, libraries, and all non-essential retail reopen, and it was clear to see that Britons were keen to return to in-person shopping. According to TrendDesk by Salesfire, beauty and footwear orders fell by 18.8%, and 8.8% respectively, with the reopening of retail. 

The data comes with little surprise, as many stores had long queues hours prior to their reopening on the 12th of April; some of which still have eager customers waiting in line almost a week after reopening, forcing them to extend their trading hours to as late as 10pm. For some shops, this is the first time they’ve opened their doors in six months, welcoming shoppers back to the experience they’d been waiting for, with one customer stating “It’s lovely to be able to go out and walk into a shop again”.

Statements like this emphasise the key role brick-and-mortar stores play in retail. Department stores, such as Selfridges, rely heavily on the shopping experience they provide, one that falls short when digitised. Rich Hemsworth, CEO of Salesfire, said in a statement that the fall in footwear and fashion was “expected” as brands “which place a focus on their brick-and-mortar stores […] hold an edge because their experience requires an in-person visit.”.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean doom for e-commerce, which is likely to remain steady as some prefer to continue shopping online to dodge the long, winding queues, or for a matter of conveniency. Both forms of retail are invaluable and are predicted to continue working harmoniously throughout the coming weeks.

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