A New Report By GlobalData Shows That Multi-channel Retail Adoption Rose During The 2020 Holidays, Despite Lock-downs

Although physical shopping was disrupted due to lock-downs, multichannel sales grew in five out of six countries studied, according to a new report from GlobalData.

New research on the shopping habits of over 107,000 consumers (since the start of the pandemic), – has shown that COVID-19 drove the increased adoption and growth of multichannel retail, further cementing its role in retail going forward. 

Online channel growth in the six studied countries accelerated significantly during the holidays, in five out of the six countries. Online sales from multichannel is growing faster than overall online sales, meaning that the proportion of online sales supported by a physical store, increased during the holidays.

According to the new report by GlobalData, entitled: ‘Holiday Multichannel: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, And Spain,’ – the penetration of online sales reached just over 31% of total sales in the UK, and almost 21% in the US. In France, online channel penetration reached just over 17%, and Germany saw a rise of almost 18%. 

Even Spain and Italy (where online selling is typically more embryonic) saw an increase in penetration to 9.1% and 8.9% of total retail sales, respectively.

Neil Saunders, the Head of Retail at GlobalData, said: “The usual narrative of online dominating the retail landscape is too simplistic and does not address some of the nuanced shifts occurring in the retail market. Over 2020, retailers moved quickly to make their operations more multichannel and get stores to do some of the heavy lifting in servicing online orders.

In Spain, multichannel accounted for 28% of online sales, up from 26% in the holiday period of 2019. In Italy, the same number was 27% in 2020, up from 24% in 2019. And in France and Germany, multichannel accounted for 21% and 31% of online sales, respectively. Both were up slightly, – from 2019.           

Saunders noted: “Although gains in France and Germany were very marginal, the fact that multichannel increased at all is remarkable – given that many non-essential shops were forced to close for part of the trading period.”

The only country where multichannel sales fell was the UK, because non-essential physical stores were closed for most of the holiday period, which reduced the number of people browsing in stores before buying online. However, in all countries, the research found that the pandemic temporarily inflated online penetration. 

In the UK, where there was a severe lock-down, online penetration increased by almost 12 percentage points, solely because of pandemic-related factors. In France, the same figure was four percentage points, and in Germany it was just over three percentage points. In Italy, the pandemic inflated online penetration by just over two percentage points.

Finally, Spain, – which had the shortest shut-down of non-essential stores among European countries studied, – had the lowest uplift of just under two percentage points. The US, where the retail economy was open over the holidays, had the second lowest uplift of two percentage points.

Although these figures are only a guide to the effect of the pandemic, they underline the importance of not completely extrapolating online penetration during an exceptional time to future periods when circumstances will normalize.

Saunders said: “When all UK non-essential stores were closed for most of the holidays, more consumers were forced to shop online. This is an exceptional event that is not driven by natural shopper preferences. Online penetration will come down as the European economies open back up.”

Check out the full report here.

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