Covid-19: 17.2 million UK consumers expected to permanently shift to online

An estimated 17.2 million consumers in the UK, nearly a quarter of the entire population, will permanently change the way they shop, redirecting their spending online. This is according to a study by global professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) in partnership with Retail Economics, 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.

The authors calculated that this new group, combined with those already used to digital shopping, will generate an extra £4.5 billion in UK online retail sales in 2020.

In a survey of 6,000 consumers across six European countries, it was found that those who perceive the risk of Covid-19 to be very high are almost four-times more likely to shift their shopping habits in the long-term. And in the UK, a large majority of consumers (69%) do not believe the government’s response has been positive, while 55% believe the risk of the virus to be high or very high.

Additionally, 48% of UK consumers stated that they plan to avoid busy destinations such as large shopping centres, indicating “scepticism in the ability of retailers to reimagine the customer journey”.

Erin Brookes, managing director and head of retail, Europe, A&M, said: “Retailers are facing a make or break moment. The race is on to transform operating models, product proposition and channel mix to ensure these meet the demands of a new type of shopper. Those that emerge on the other side will be stronger and more adaptable.”

The latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail index revealed that eCommerce sales continued to surge in the week commencing 14 June in the UK, despite the reopening of physical stores in that week.

Earlier this week, it was announced that TM Lewin will become an online-only business, closing all its physical stores, potentially a sign of a new era for the retail sector.