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UK Shoppers Flock to E-Commerce for Outdoor-Living Products As Retailers Plan Store Reopenings

UK Shoppers Flock to E-Commerce for Outdoor-Living Products As Retailers Plan Store Reopenings
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The UK government instructed nonessential retailers to close from later March, pushing demand for seasonal goods online.

  • On April 24, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that online sales at household-goods stores (which includes DIY, furniture and appliance retailers as well as other sectors) were up 53% year over year in March, versus just 2% in February. Online sales at department stores and mixed-goods retailers were up almost 35% year over year in March, versus negative growth in February. Given the shutdowns occurred from March 23, April is likely to prove stronger still.
  • On April 21, department-store John Lewis reported online sales were up fully 84% from mid-March, fueled by categories related to working and living at home. On April 26, the Mail on Sunday reported that company management had confirmed John Lewis stores would reopen in May.
  • DIY market-leader B&Q (owned by Kingfisher) has introduced digital queues of up to an hour, such is the demand to buy on its website. On April 21, B&Q announced that it had reopened 155 stores in phased openings, following trial reopenings at a handful of stores; over the weekend of April 25–26, B&Q stores saw long lines of shoppers. On April 27, rival Homebase announced that it would reopen 20 stores on May 2. According to the UK government’s guidelines, hardware stores are essential and are exempt from forced closures.
  • Garden-supplies websites such as crocus.co.uk have seen a surge in demand and some have been forced to limit the number of daily orders they accept.

April will be the first full month in which nonessential stores are closed, and on April 16, the UK government extended the lockdown by another three weeks. The UK sees two public holidays in May, and these are traditionally a peak time for home and garden improvements. While we expect total retail sales to be down sharply in April, outdoor-living categories are likely to outperform, supported by selective store reopenings and strong growth in e-commerce