Independent U.K. shops are defying Covid’s 2020 revenue slump


Restrictions on travel and working from home allow individuals to shop locally rather than in city centers.

Despite an overall drop in retail spending, British independent retailers had a revenue increase in 2020, as Covid travel constraints and working from home encouraged shoppers to shop on local high streets rather than city centers.

Barclaycard data shows that in 2020, spending on independent food and beverage shops, including off-licenses, butchers and bakeries, rose by 28.6% compared to the previous year.

Total consumer spending, on the other hand, dropped 7.1% as social distancing laws left shoppers with less options for spending on international travel, lodging and city centers.

Barclaycard, which covers almost half of the UK’s credit and debit card purchases, found that expenditure on necessities such as groceries grew 4.1 percent compared to 2019, while 11.3 percent dropped on non-essential spending.

With spending down 17.2 percent, department stores were hit especially hard, while clothing retailers experienced a 15.6 percent decline, contributing to the financial woes of companies such as Debenhams and Arcadia, the owner of Topshop. However, as Britons, faced with holidays and job losses, found value-for-money offers, brick-and-mortar discounters saw a 25.4 percent rise.

In order to upgrade their living spaces, buyers, compelled to spend more time at home, turned to DIY ventures. After the reopening of convenience stores in June, pent-up demand pushed overall expenditure at home improvement and home improvement stores up 9.8 percent over the year. When buyers invested in larger purchases, furniture retailers saw a 5.3 percent rise.

Throughout the year, Brits pampered themselves – and friends and relatives they did not see – with flowers, with florists spending up 22.7%.

Arts and crafts and hobbies spending grew 9.8 percent, and pets earned special attention, as veterinarians and pet retail spending rose 10.7 percent.

The study also illustrates, however, how much restaurants suffered during the summer despite the “eat out to help out” initiative of Rishi Sunak.

Restrictions led to a 47 percent decline in restaurant spending for the remainder of the year, while bars and pubs saw a 36.7 percent fall.

Covid limitations, however, led to an increase in spending on online takeaway orders of 49.1 percent, while spending on dining subscriptions grew by 62.4 percent.

Home entertainment demand pushed digital subscription spending up 31.5 percent, while electronics spending, including game consoles, rose 10.8 percent.

A 52.5 percent rise in spending benefited from general online retailing.

“2020 has accelerated many trends. E-commerce has seen tremendous growth, work-from-home has led to many people shopping more locally, and in-home experiences such as virtual workouts have become the norm.”Many trends have accelerated in 2020. E-commerce has seen immense growth, work-from-home has led to more local shopping for many people, and in-home experiences such as virtual workouts have become the norm.
As coronavirus and quarantine restrictions took their toll, travel spending, including airline and travel agency spending, dropped 61.1 percent in August and 63.1 percent in September.

“Hopefully, with the introduction of a vaccine in 2021, we will see green shoots for the most affected sectors,” Ahmed said. “However, some of the trends and changes we’ve seen in customer habits may be permanent.”


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