Wednesday 22 July 2020 9:55 am

Londoners spark online shopping revolution during lockdown

Londoners have catalysed an online shopping revolution, according to new research, after shoppers in the capital contributed the biggest spike in online sales in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new report by packaging firm DS Smith showed that  62 per cent of 2,000 Londoners surveyed increased their online shopping habits during lockdown, helping add £5.3bn to the UK economy during lockdown as high street shops remained shuttered for months. 

Despite the higher concentration of supermarkets in the capital, almost half of Londoners said they ordered groceries online during lockdown, compared to just 39 per cent of the rest of the UK.

And city-dwellers prioritised convenience over queues during the pandemic, with more than a third of Londoners saying they ordered alcohol online during the UK’s four-month lockdown, compared to just 23 per cent of Brits outside the capital. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that alcohol-focused stores saw a 31.4 per cent surge in volumes during the pandemic, as bars and pubs remained closed.

But Londoners also took to their screens for home comforts during the crisis, with 39 per cent of people surveyed buying beauty and hygiene products online, and many more rushing to order kit for new hobbies as people in the capital were forced to stay indoors.

Shuttered parks sparked a 27 per cent spike in online fitness product orders from Londoners, while the same amount ordered arts and crafts products, and 38 per cent took up shovels to try out their new gardening kit.

The coronavirus crisis has caused an at-home revolution according to DS Smith, with one in five Brits embracing their creative side during lockdown by ordering arts and crafts items, while sales of loungewear saw a 433 per cent jump in consumer demand. Home-focused companies have cashed in during the pandemic, with fitness brands such as Peloton reporting a 66 per cent hike in revenue since the start of the crisis. 

And it looks like the new e-commerce habits are here to stay, with 44 per cent of people living in London saying that they will continue to shop online, even after shops fully reopen, and almost 90 per cent of Brits outside London saying they will continue to shop as much online or even more post-lockdown.

Stefano Rossi, chief executive of packaging at DS Smith, said: “There has been a seismic shift in the way consumers are shopping and we’ve been using our expertise to support businesses of all sizes with the rapid growth of e-commerce so they can survive and thrive through this uncertain time.​

“What’s clear is that as lockdown eases further, these trends aren’t likely to fall away.  Consumers have found new confidence and convenience in the way they shop, buying a whole range of items online — everything from the family food shop, to toiletries and home and garden products. If companies are not already transforming their business to meet this new age of e-commerce, they risk being left behind.​”

The spike in online orders was split across gender and generation, with men and younger people prioritising convenience, while women and older people prioritised safety, the research found. 

Almost half of women surveyed said they had flocked to their screens to shop for safety reasons, while more than a third of men said it was easier than hitting the high street. 

But sustainability will have to be incorporated into delivery methods for the online revolution to take hold, with almost half of Brits surveyed saying they were more likely to order online if items were delivered with less packaging, and more women than men prioritising sustainability.

It comes as online sales have buoyed the UK’s ailing economy during lockdown, as Britain faces its biggest recession on record. 

According to the latest Online Retail Index from IMRG and Capgemini, overall online retail sales in June surged 33.9 per cent year-on-year, marking a fresh 12-year high since March 2008.

Delivery giants have cashed in on the online revolution, with Hermes yesterday announcing it will create 10,500 jobs in the UK following a surge in demand from online shopping during lockdown. 

Hermes boss Martijn de Lange said: “The pandemic has expedited the already phenomenal growth of online shopping and we see no sign of this changing.”

Even brands that heavily rely on high street footfall have shaken up their strategies to accommodate for evolving consumer habits.

British fashion stalwart Ted Baker shares surged more than 10 per cent yesterday after the brand reported that online sales hiked by a third during lockdown, even after its stores began to reopen.  

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