July: news at a glance

July brings with it the substantial easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Retail stores have been open several weeks already, while pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 4 July. A summer holiday may even be back on the cards. But the "new normal" is still uncertain. With an impending recession and constant worries about a second peak, we are far from returning to a familiar way of life.

With new measures and information being published daily, it can be difficult to keep on top of the news you need to know about. Here, Essential Retail will collate the latest retail industry news in a bite-sized format. Bookmark this page and you can check in daily on the news updates you should be concerned with, and click through to the full articles at your convenience. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Wasabi: Sushi and bento restaurant Wasabi is mapping out plans to revamp its loyalty programme with a payment-linked scheme. Through a partnership with Bink, the food chain will be able to automatically add stamps to customers’ accounts whenever they make a qualifying purchase with a linked card or payment product.

Covid-19: A study from the UK arm of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), in association with YouGov, found 75% of people feel more positively towards companies that have clearly communicated how services have adapted and the majority think it is important for companies to be communicating with them about changes.

Nike: Global sports clothing and equipment brand Nike has announced a restructuring of its senior team as part of a continuing digital drive at the business. Job cuts will be made in line with the changes, resulting in expected pre-tax redundancy costs of approximately $200 million to $250 million. The company did not say exactly how many jobs would be lost.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Eve Sleep: Eve Sleep has traded above board expectations in the six months ended 30 June 2020, with the online mattress brand benefiting from customers shifting to eCommerce during the Covid-19 crisis.

Armani: Designer fashion group Armani has announced a project with luxury e-tail player Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) that will result in the closer integration of its digital proposition and global boutiques.

Kingfisher: B&Q owner Kingfisher has reported positive sales momentum, ahead of revealing its half-year results announcement. Since stores reopened after their coronavirus-enforced temporary closure, the DIY retail group has experienced strong demand across its markets, with second quarter like-for-like sales to 18 July up 21.6% year-on-year.

Waitrose: UK supermarket chain Waitrose is building on the popularity of its online cookery classes during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown with the launch of a new virtual food series for kids.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Covid-19: Online grocery sales increased 92% year-on-year in the four weeks up to 12 July 2020, increasing at a slightly faster pace than the previous four weeks despite the recent easing of lockdown restrictions. This is according to Kantar figures which showed that eCommerce now accounts for 13% of all UK grocery sales

AO: The online retailer has launched an ambitious incentive scheme to reward its employees for “exceptional performance” as it continues its rapid growth. Running over a five- to seven-year period, the VCP will provide all its 3,000 employees with a 10% share of value created over a hurdle share price of £5.23, representing growth of around 30% per annum.

Missguided: The fashion brand has partnered with InPost to provide customers with access to self-serve parcel lockers to pick up their online deliveries.

Ted Baker: Ted Baker has reported a 35% year-on-year surge in online sales amid a substantial fall in revenue overall for the 11-week period from 3 May to 18 July 2020. The trading update comes after reports emerged this weekend that the luxury fashion retailer plans to cut around a quarter of its workforce because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Smol: The detergent subscription service has raised funds to grow its range of products as it continues with its attack on the large consumer goods companies.

Monday 20 July 2020

Covid-19: Up to 950 jobs are at risk at M&S as the retailer accelerates its plans to become a “stronger, leaner and more resilient business”. The retailer has started the consultation process and said the roles at risk would include head office and store management roles in order to remove role duplication and provide clearer leadership accountabilities.

Fashion: Online players Asos, Missguided, N Brown, and The Very Group are among the signatories on a letter to home secretary, Priti Patel, calling for the government to provide greater protection for garment factory workers.

Technology: A fruit picking robot scheme led by Saga Robotics in Lincoln will receive nearly £2.5 million as part of a new UK government funding initiative to drive efficiency in food production. The programme, dubbed Robot Highways (Lincoln), will involve robots assisting farmers by carrying out energy intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce critical pests and diseases.

Covid-19: Hire vehicle business Europcar has introduced new click & collect, and deliver & collect services for customers, as the motor retail industry continues to evolve due to the coronavirus crisis. Recognising that “consumer behaviour has irreversibly changed during lockdown as we have become a nation of home delivery shoppers”, the organisation is promoting the new ways consumers can hire and pick-up their vehicles.

Covid-19: Retail property group Hammerson has added a new feature called ‘Crowd Checker’ on its destination’s websites to provide consumers with real-time information about how crowded its shopping centres are. The move is part of efforts to ensure social distancing requirements are met in Hammerson sites during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and potentially encourage more consumers to return to physical shopping.

Friday 17 July 2020

John Lewis: The retailer has announced that customers will be able to pick up orders from over 500 Co-op food stores by the end of the summer, adding an additional 400 participating stores to its existing 105 locations.

Boohoo: The online fashion platform’s co-founders investment of £15 million in company’s shares pushed the price up 12% and halted its decline during a torrid period as it fights allegations of serious supply chain issues.

Huawei: Huawei has revealed plans to open three new stores in London and Manchester. This will include the technology company’s first own-brand store which will open in London’s Olympic Park in Stratford in October 2020.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Poundland: Poundland is piloting an online delivery service as part of a major transformation plan unveiled today as the business adapts to the post-Covid landscape. The discount retailer said that one of its three stores in Cannock will close from this Saturday and be converted into an online fulfilment centre as it prepares the launch of a new eCommerce platform early next year.

Zalando: Online fashion platform Zalando has grown its revenues in Q2 by more than a quarter as it benefited from pent-up demand shifting from earlier in the year. This is expected to lead to its full-year 2020 revenue growth hitting 15-20%.

Covid-19: Within the UK, Avon has reported a year-on-year rise of 114% in new reps over the period March 23 to June 7 to take its global number of reps to five million. This increased appeal of Avon has been driven by the growing number of women who disproportionately find their jobs under threat as a result of Covid-19.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Tesco: The supermarket chain has partnered with ‘zero waste packaging’ firm Loop to offer consumers a range of products which arrive in refillable containers. The trial enables customers from across the UK to order from 150 Tesco products, including sauces, yoghurts, soaps, cereals, moisturisers, chocolate and washing detergents that are sent inside Loop’s fully reusable packaging.

ASOS: The brand has reported total sales growth of 10% to £1.014 billion for the four months to the end of June as it recorded steady improvement throughout the period, largely avoiding any disruption from Covid-19.

Covid-19: Dixons Carphone has highlighted the importance of its online channel as it revealed pre-tax profits fell £173 million in the year ending 2 May 2020. The group was able to increase UK and Ireland electricals sales by 1% in this period, with eCommerce playing a vital role especially when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Covid-19: Burberry sales fell by nearly a half in its first quarter as lockdown hit it globally and it faces more challenges ahead from a continued lack of tourism. Burberry has continued to focus on its digital capabilities such as immersive experiences that involve pop-up stores incorporating augmented reality.

Covid-19: Dunelm has reported online sales increased 85.2% in the 16 weeks from 8 March to 27 June (Q4 of FY20), and by 105.6% across April, May and June as it continued to rely on eCommerce during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result of the shift to eCommerce during the crisis, Dunelm said it will invest heavily in its digital capabilities.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Covid-19: According to new data from Barclaycard, online sales grew by 105.9% in June. This, along with the 25.7% increase in spending within supermarkets – the sharpest rise since the start of the year – provided some positive numbers for the industry.

Covid-19: Ocado has posted a 27% increase in retail revenue for the six months ending 31 May 2020, reflecting the UK’s period of lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. The business said it was able to meet the unprecedented demand for online groceries, a trend it believes will continue as the UK begins to emerge from its state of lockdown.

AO: AO.com has reported strong sales and profit growth for the past year and initial figures show an increased number of shoppers are continuing to buy electrical goods online despite physical stores now allowed to reopened.

Covid-19: Face coverings in shops and supermarkets will become mandatory in England from 24 July, the UK Government is expected to announced today. Those who fail to comply will face a fine of up to £100.

Covid-19: Retail sales increased in June versus the same month in 2019 with a major contribution from online that helped drive the industry to its first month of growth since lockdown, the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor has found.

Covid-19: Furniture retailer DFS has reported online orders grew 77% year-on-year for the period 23 March to 12 July, with the shift to eCommerce during the Covid-19 lockdown continuing even though the majority of the retailer’s showrooms reopened in England at the end of May.

Covid-19: The UK economy has shown small signs of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, with GDP growing by 1.8% in May following the dramatic 20.4% fall recorded in April, the biggest monthly decline since records began. New figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that retail was a major contributor to the UK’s economic growth in May, growing 12% compared with April.

Aldi: The supermarket is expanding it its rapid home delivery partnership with Deliveroo that began in May. The trial is being extended to a further 11 stores, including five more in London and launching in Greater Manchester and Cambridge for the first time.

John Lewis: The partnership is to outsource 111 roles to the tech firm Capgemini as part of its plans to restructure its IT services and adapt to the evolving digital demands of its customers and staff. It follows the announcement two weeks ago that Wipro Limited will take over IT infrastructure services for the retailer going forward.

Monday 13 July 2020

Covid-19: Halfords is to close 60 stores and garages by April 2021, putting hundreds of jobs at risk, it has been reported. This news has emerged following a huge growth in its online business during the lockdown, which the retailer revealed last week.

Covid-19: New data from Springboard has revealed that footfall on the UK’s high streets was boosted in early July by the reopening of bars and restaurants but it still leaves shopper numbers at less than half the levels compared to this time last year.

Quiz: Fashion chain Quiz has been sucked into the inflammatory issue of low wages being paid to garment workers in Leicester as it investigates claims made against it in the media. Following reports in the national media alleging non-compliance with National Living Wage requirements in a factory making Quiz products in Leicester, the company stated it is “extremely concerned” and is currently investigating the allegations.

Friday 10 July 2020

Covid-19: The older generation (aged 65+) are likely to be major drivers of eCommerce growth in the short to medium-term, according to a new study. This surprising finding is due to a variety of factors: ongoing concern over exposure to Covid-19, getting accustomed to online shopping during lockdown and the ability to make more discretionary purchases than younger people post-crisis.

Covid-19: UK shop footfall improved in June as a result of the reopening of non-essential stores on 15 June in England and 12 June in Northern Ireland. The analysis showed that footfall fell 62.6% year-on-year in June, although this is a 19 point percentage rise compared to May.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Pandora: The jewellery retailer has appointed a new chief supply officer (CSO) with its previously announced digital hub now in operation. The new digital hub, which opened in Copenhagen earlier this week, aims to boost the retailer’s digital presence, omnichannel expertise and use of data.

Covid-19: Boots UK has announced 4,000 job losses across its head office, stores and optician teams as it accelerates its digital transformation plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19: eCommerce sales grew 34% year-on-year in June 2020 – the highest growth rate reported since March 2008. This is despite non-essential stores reopening halfway through the month.

Aldi: The supermarket has committed to removing 74,000 tonnes of plastic packaging by 2025, thereby reducing plastic volume by half. It aims to achieve this by switching to alternative materials and remove unnecessary packaging across its product range.

Nike: The first Nike Rise store has opened today, in Guangzhou, China, bringing a variety of new retail technology to its customers. Using insights Nike’s members have shared with the brand, as well as responding to real-time sports moments in the city, the store aims to provide more personalised and up-to-date experiences for visitors.

Covid-19: The John Lewis Partnership has announced that eight of its stores will not reopen despite the lifting of lockdown, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk. The move is part of the group’s plan to adapt its business model in light of the changing consumer landscape during Covid-19.

Boots: Jamie Kurruish, who has over 20 years of experience at Boots and parent company Walgreen Boots Alliance, has been drafted in “on a secondment basis” to run Boots.com. This follows the departure of online boss Sophie Neary earlier this week.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Covid-19: UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak has outlined a range of new economic measures to “protect, support and create jobs”. while the budget touched on green energy, homeowners and hospitality, the main message was about managing the unemployment crisis that the UK is about to face as we approach a global recession.

Superdrug: The retailer as unveiled an anti-bullying campaign across its social media platforms in an effort to encourage users to “be kind” online. Superdrug decided to make a pledge to combat cyberbullying and online trolling after noticing negative messages after shining a spotlight on emerging make-up artists and bloggers on its social media platforms.

Shell: The energy firm has been issued with a warning by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about broadcasting misleading ads. A radio advert heard in January 2020 relating to the Shell Go+ loyalty scheme must not appear again in the same form, and Shell UK was told it must make it clear claims of carbon offsetting were contingent on membership of a loyalty scheme.

Asda: The grocer has extended its logistics partnership with Wincanton, meaning the logistics company will continue to manage Asda’s transport and warehousing operations until 2023.

Boohoo: The online fashion group has announced it is launching an immediate independent review of its UK supply chain, following allegations of malpractice in UK warehouses manufacturing its garments.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Covid-19: It's been reported that fashion retailer River Island is planning to cut 250 head office roles as it seeks to reduce costs following a loss of sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19: Halfords has reported strong growth in its online business during the Covid-19 pandemic, as it adapted to having its store operations severely curtailed over this period. The group revealed eCommerce revenue went up by 200% in the 13 weeks to 3 July 2020.

Covid-19: JD Sports has reported revenue growth of 30% in the 52 weeks up to 1 February 2020, underpinned by its multichannel operations. The brand now intends to expand its digital capacity going forward, stating that “it is perhaps inevitable that there will be some level of permanent transfer from physical retail to online as a consequence of Covid-19”.

Emma: Emma – The Sleep Company has reported revenue growth of 120% during the first half of 2020, despite the economic uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailer attributes this success to a revamp of its portfolio and introduction of a new pricing model.

Covid-19: UK shop footfall fell by almost 50% year-on-year in the third week since non-essential stores have reopened in England, with many consumers reluctant to return to physical shopping amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Aldi: The supermarket has vowed to only sell fresh chicken and beef from British farmers and has also ruled out selling chlorinated chicken or hormone treated beef, regardless of any future trade deals.

Monday 6 July 2020

Consumer behaviour: New research from Klarna and BigCommerce have shown that nearly four in 10 shoppers abandon a purchase in their shopping cart once a week. Lack of fast and affordable delivery options was the number one reason for abandoning purchases, according to the study.

Covid-19: Pret A Manger is expected to close 30 stores as well as cut around 1,000 jobs from other sites due to a loss of trade during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boohoo: The online fashion group has seen its share value fall by almost 11% as it found itself at the centre of allegations around poor treatment of factory workers in the UK. In a statement Boohoo said it is “determined to drive up standards” where required.

Covid-19: The UK government has teamed up with several brands and retailers to raise awareness of the hygiene measures people should follow as the coronavirus-enforced lockdown period nears its end. Brands including Boots, Carex, and O2 have partnered with the government to share the #EnjoySummerSafely message across their respective channels.

Co-op: The retailer deployed body-worn security cameras over the weekend, as part of a drive to cut down shop crime and protect its workers. The Great Linford store in Milton Keynes equipped its staff with the cameras for the first time late last week, with employees encouraged to switch them on if they believe an incident of crime or unsocial behaviour is unfolding.

Friday 3 July 2020

Covid-19: UK online retail sales continued to surge in June, rising by 102.6%. And overall retail sales were the best recorded since February, boosted by the reopening of non-essential stores in England from 15 June following 12 weeks of lockdown.

Covid-19: UK consumer confidence has improved by three points in the past two weeks, from -30 to -27, the latest GfK Consumer Confidence Index report has found. This appears to be linked the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The findings provide hope that businesses in sectors such as retail and hospitality will receive a boost over the coming weeks.

Hugo Boss: The luxury fashion retailer has has named Oliver Timm as chief sales officer (CSO), effective from 1 January 2021. Timm will join from his role as chief commercial officer at rival fashion house PVH Corp and he will take on responsibility for Hugo Boss’s global retail, wholesale, and eCommerce operations.

Shoe Zone: The footwear retailer has appointed Peter Foot as it’s Finance Director, with effect from 6 July 2020. He will replace Jonathan Fearn in the role, whose resignation has been accepted with effect from 31 July 2020.

Covid-19: Retailers must not forget about creating in-store experiences, despite the current Covid-19 restrictions. This is according to the panellists on a recent Essential Retailer, with representatives of Tracer Insight Consultancy, New West End Company, and Avoira.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Primark: Primark has revealed that sales fell by 75% in the period from 1 March to 20 June, with the retailer hit especially hard by the Covid-19 lockdown due to not having an online platform to turn to.

Peroni: The beer brand is launching a major new multichannel ad campaign, as the UK prepares to return to the pub from 4 July. Its 'Walk With Us' campaign will be broadcast on TV, radio, video on demand, out-of-home, print, and social media.

Covid-19: An estimated 17.2 million consumers in the UK will permanently change the way they shop, redirecting their spending online. This is according to a study, which found there is a substantial group who have adopted online shopping for the first time during Covid-19 and do not intend to change these new habits.

Climate change: A total of 20 major UK retailers have signed a declaration to commission the creation of a comprehensive roadmap to provide the industry with guidance and support on how to decarbonise. These include Boots, Next, and WHSmith.

Covid-19: M&S has announced it is digitalising its Sparks loyalty scheme from 9 July, when it will be hosted through an updated M&S app, fully integrating all its features online. M&S said the move is part of its plans to develop its digital capabilities due to the changing consumer landscape.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Covid-19: The John Lewis Partnership is planning to cut jobs, and is unlikely to reopen a number of its stores as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the business, it has been reported. The number of stores and jobs which will go has yet to be decided.

Covid-19: Superdrug has announced a collaboration with virtual psychology clinic My Online Therapy, which aims to raise awareness and accessibility of mental health services in the UK during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This follows a study showing that customers continue to have fears over returning to everyday life despite the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Covid-19: Sainsbury’s has reported double digit sales growth year-on-year in grocery for the 16 weeks to 27 June, with group online sales – including its Argos division – more than doubling.

Topps Tiles: The retailer has had a 139% growth in online sales in the 13 weeks ending 27 June 2020, a quarter dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It also revealed in-store sales exceeded expectations as physical outlets began reopening towards the end of this period.

Covid-19: The beauty brand, Coty, has launched a new shoppable website, offering home delivery through a direct-to-consumer (D2C) service for the first time. It represents another example of retailers pivoting their services during the current health emergency, as consumers continue to shift to online.

FIS: The start-ups selected for the payment technology provider’s 2020 Fintech Accelerator programme have been unveiled. They come from a range of areas such as cybersecurity, location intelligence, and video chat technology.