Covid-19 and Very Group: Shoppers spent early in day and on mobile

UK consumers were more likely to shop earlier in the day and browse for items later in the week than usual during lockdown, according to insights offered up by The Very Group today (8 October).

The and Littlewoods parent company said shoppers ordered at different items, changed browsing behaviour, and increasingly used mobile apps at the height of the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave in the UK in spring/summer 2020.

Describing five key ways shopping behaviour evolved during the unusual period earlier in the year, the group said, between 1 March and 30 June, shoppers browsed more between 9am and 3pm compared to the same time in 2019. In keeping with disrupted working patterns, people also shopped less after 5pm, it added.

Meanwhile, between 1 April and 30 June, Monday became the least popular weekday to browse, Thursday became the joint favourite day for shopping online, and Friday saw the biggest growth in share of traffic compared to the same period last year. This is an upside down version of events to the norm, according to the group.

And despite many people spending more time at home than ever before, the trend for using smartphones for shopping did not slow. Some 81% of orders came from mobile between 1 April and 31 August 2020 – which Very attributes to more use of its app.

In terms of category interest, Very said DIY and entertaining the kids were prioritised, reflecting figures already shared by the Office for National Statistics and organisations such as e-tail trade association, IMRG.

The Very Group’s top performing categories by sales growth included gaming, vision, DIY, and garden products. Apple Airpods, Amazon Firestick and the Animal Crossing: New Horizons video game all made the top five products by sales volume between 1 April and 30 June.

Very also said click & collect became less popular in lockdown – between 1 April and 30 June it was 20% of group’s orders, compared to 33% one year before.

So, is it long lasting change? Not necessarily, judging by Very Group’s performance following the lifting of national lockdown measures.

It said, in both July and August 2020, online browsing shifted back to hourly patterns comparable with those seen in 2019, and to earlier in the week like it was pre-pandemic.

Home and electricals continue to be the dominant categories, albeit sub-sections of fashion are proving resilient, including sports and childrenswear, according to Very. In addition, click & collect has become more popular again, although remains below levels seen last year.

Henry Birch, CEO at The Very Group, said: “While some things have returned to normal, with children back in school, the situation is likely to remain changeable.

“Home and electrical are likely to remain strong categories over the coming weeks, and we envisage a longer-term recovery in fashion. Lockdown has made many of us take on healthier new habits, so we expect sportswear to be particularly strong.”

The group also announced full-year results today, with retail sales up by 10.5% to £1.3 billion and overall revenue up by 6.8% to £1.59 billion. Group revenue, which included an 8.8% drop in revenue at Littlewoods to £460.9 million, increased by 2.9% to £2.05 billion.

It is the first £2 billion-plus annual revenue recorded in the company’s history.

Underlying group EBITDA was down by 2.9% to £264.4 million, but Very said volume growth and cost efficiency largely mitigated £12.4 million of Covid-19 impacts on the bottom line.