British Retailers expand online presence to ward off lockdown impact on their brick-and-mortar stores

  • Apr 07, 2020 BST
  • Team Kalkine
British Retailers expand online presence to ward off lockdown impact on their brick-and-mortar stores

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has brought e-commerce to the fore. The online retail industry which had been slowly and steadily eating into the market of the traditional retailors got a major boost in its market share in the past two months. From food delivery to delivery of other essential provisions, this industry is contributing significantly in making this lockdown effective. The citizens on their part are less strained to venture out to keep themselves provisioned while the public health officials are battling against the virus across the nation. However, the smaller retailers who do not have a strong online platform have not been able to avail of this sudden boost in business and have started to stagnate since the lockdown in the country was imposed. The pandemic has till now infected nearly 48,000 people in the United Kingdom of which nearly 5,000 have already lost their lives.

Retailing through the online medium has got a boost from several quarters this time around. Not only has restrictions from venturing outside ones’ home has forced more and more people to exploit this medium, but the falling oil prices and capacity related relaxation by environment and transport departments has helped the industry to bring down costs and grow. Some of the industries largest companies had in the last month requested the government to ease restrictions on them so that they can better serve their customers. Some of these restrictions were pertaining to the quantity of merchandise that can be loaded onto a delivery vehicle at one go, working hours of drivers and delivering merchandise during odd working hours. The relaxation of these restrictions and coordination among the peers to pool resources has been the driving factor to the success of the industry.

These online platforms are offering exceptional support to the country in dealing with the much unexpected crisis. Try to imagine a situation when there would have been no other way for people to obtain essential merchandise but to have to personally go to retailers’ establishments and procure them physically. In such a situation, it would have become extremely difficult for the authorities to impose a lockdown and the risk of the pandemic on the masses would have increased manifold. The aspect of public safety through online retailing has not taken a front seat ever before, and the way it is playing its role is highly commendable. Several retailers are having an edge of online presence which is helping their business not to be severely impacted by the pandemic. 

It is highly likely that even the smaller retailers who had in the recent past been a bit slow with their adaptation to the digital business model will come up with their portals within a short period of time. The physical retailing medium has several constrains that the digital model addresses. First, the logistic costs of bringing the goods from the warehouses to the stores and then the additional cost of the supermarket establishments is eliminated, and the retailers are now able to directly send their merchandise to the customers which results in massive savings. In terms of transportation, fuel and electricity, the retailers are able to save a lot along with the potential to transfer goods promptly to the customers. These benefits are coming in handy for the industry as they are trending through this challenging times and are helping the customers, the businesses, and the country as a whole to alleviate their struggles.

The role of the digital medium in this era of e-commerce has become highly essential. It is not just the retail sector, but digital medium is making it possible to conduct several business activities from the safety of ones’ home which could not have been imaginable until at least twenty five years ago. The pace of adoption and advancement of technology has resulted in massive expansions in global commerce. Electronic commerce has brought about a new era of change in almost every sphere of industry and trade today while making the world a smaller place. There was a time when the success of a retail company was gauged by the number of footfalls on supermarket premises, however, as the technology has evolved it is now being judged by the number of visitors on their websites and the number of online transactions they obtain. In this time of the coronavirus outbreak, the transition of these supermarkets from their traditional brick-and-mortar stores to a digital retailing business model has been remarkable. The online ordering and delivery of merchandise at doorsteps has emerged as the most critical business service activity across the world which is not only keeping the masses adequately provisioned but is also helping the retail industry fight the pandemic-induced economic slowdown blues.

It seems that this pandemic is the calling of the online retail industry in the United Kingdom. Once this period of turmoil is over, the role of this industry would be considered most important in supporting the daily lives of the people. The event has also brought to light the importance of technology to deal with a natural calamity like situation like this and how can an economy be run in the modern era without the need of physical presence. A transformative change is taking place in the way trade and commerce industry is currently operating on the pillars of technology.  Moreover, Digital retailers, which are already in the market, are expected to be in the limelight for the time being while their roles keep on expanding. It seems reasonable to expect these companies to post significantly better results in the upcoming quarter compared to other industries like real estate and travel and tourism given the ongoing economic distress.


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