The light at the end of the tunnel

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In an attempt to share some positive news from the sector this week, Josh is going to steer clear of some of the latest from the sector and focus on some of the key trends and customer insights to come out of the situation.

To start this week’s edition, we take a look at the story of UK lockdown through google trends. Through the use of search history, this piece provides a host of useful insights into how consumers have been behaving throughout the lockdown across the UK and in turn can give retailers key insights into how they can adapt to address these new habits. Some of the key takeaways include the following;

  • Skills and knowledge – Over the last four months, the nation has been learning, they have been up-skilling to be able to provide all those comforts they enjoyed for themselves, they have been developing new competences, they have been acquiring new knowledge and increasing their awareness of the world around them.
  • Location – Searches for property outside of major cities has risen, the once need to be ‘nearer to work’ doesn’t seem so necessary anymore. Home delivery purchases have maintained even as lockdown measures have been relaxed indicating there is even less value to in-store experiences.
  • Mindset – There has never before been such a focus on mental health, the strain of lockdown has brought these issues fully into the light with many struggling throughout the period. Searches have risen in home workouts and techniques to practice mindfulness to combat anxiety and depression.

These insights provide a useful opportunity for retailers to adapt their services – the population that went into lockdown is not the same as the one that came out. We are smarter, more aware and less willing to travel. It’s important that retailers account for this through appealing to these more independent consumers either in the products and services they offer or in the methods they use to sell. Furthermore location is even less important, customers will be more dispersed and its important retailers are able to reach all of them as they prepare to recover and bounce back from these difficult times.

Next we look at how some of the retailers have reacted to these insights. Ocado says the switch to online is permanent. Years of growth into online have been condensed into a matter of months, primarily because one of the main factors in restricting online growth was consumer confidence in online shopping. Covid-19 forced consumers to, in some cases, adopt it or go without. This has therefore accelerated the process and consumers won’t be going back.

Conversely, Primark is resisting the shift to online, with CEO George Weston saying “decisions will be taken in our context, not because of a once-in-a-hundred years pandemic”. With no online presence, Primark were losing £100 million a month after it was forced to temporary close it stores, so it does seem odd that they won’t attempt to mitigate this potential risk in the future. However due to the extremely tight margins at Primark, ecommerce has never stood out as a profitable incentive for the group and so one can empathise with their situation. We will have to watch this one more closely in the weeks/months to come to see how they will navigate through the challenging times ahead.

A light note to finish, Costa are offering freebies to customers as they open up their stores! This is up to the value of £3, so could include a coffee, a croissant or even bacon bap! This is just one example of many promotions that retailers are offering to get customers back into their stores and I think it’s really important we get out there and start shopping again to really kickstart the sector and the wider economy!

Have a good weekend!




Josh Nokes


People & Organisation

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