We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed immense challenges to countless businesses in the retail space. However, it’s also become increasingly clear that as much as the high street has suffered, and as many companies as there are that have experienced true difficulty, a number of retailers have also thrived in the online space. According to MarketWatch in fact, UK retail sales have actually risen in recent months, despite a worsening coronavirus situation. This has been attributed in part to early Christmas shopping that brought about retail spikes in October and November. But much of that shopping took place online, where — naturally — retail activity hasn’t slowed nearly as much as it has in person.
The clear reason for the success of online retail is that consumers are able to make purchases from the safety of their own homes. Beyond this primary explanation though, it’s also worth considering what some online retail companies have done to make things easier for consumers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The following are four examples of companies that stand out in this regard.
Some companies with robust online operations have done a wonderful job of keeping consumers interested by way of offering coupons and promotions. And this has been a particularly appealing example. We actually highlighted Habitat discounts of his nature back in the summer of 2019, well before the pandemic was even known to us. To the company’s credit though, it had similar offerings throughout much of 2020 (and even as of this writing in early 2021 is offering 30% discounts!). Granted, not every retailer is in a position to provide these kinds of perks. But those that have been able to have been met with consumer enthusiasm, and particularly in the case of Habitat the idea of discounted products has been very nice indeed. It is only natural for consumers stuck at home to start thinking about ways to upgrade their interior space, and affordable furnishing and home décor that can be ordered online make for excellent options.
Very is more of a general retailer without a specific niche or specialty. Nevertheless, it has done an excellent job of catering to consumer needs throughout the ongoing coronavirus crisis. In part, this is through discount and coupon offerings similar to those just discussed with regard to Habitat. Additionally though, Very has made online shopping more appealing to at-home consumers by way of easy shipping and lenient return policies. As is described in a write-up on Groupon, Very offers cheap and efficient delivery, easy package tracking, and — perhaps most importantly — a “28 Day Approval Guarantee” that gives customers four weeks to return goods for a full refund. The idea that purchases can be evaluated in the comfort of our own home and returned for this length of time puts some consumers at ease with the idea of online shopping, and has undoubtedly helped to incentivize more business during COVID-19.
To call Gousto a “retailer” may be stretching things somewhat. Although, the more we get used to delivery grocery shopping, meal kits, and recipe boxes, the more the lines are blurring. Regardless of how we might classify this company though, the popular recipe box provider was listed by The Guardian last summer as one of a handful of companies that was actually still hiring amidst the pandemic and economic crisis. By the midpoint of 2020, Gousto had done more business than it did in all of 2019, and was creating 1,000 jobs as a result. In the process though, the company has also been making things a great deal easier for consumers who are stuck at home and intent on cooking and enjoying fresh food, rather than relying wholly on convenience foods and takeouts.
4. TK Maxx
TK Maxx may be a polarising store to make note of, given that many would rather not see large stores out-performing smaller counterparts. In the specific context of the COVID-19 economy though, there’s little debating the fact that this particular retailer has made more products more readily available for consumers. As Retail Gazette noted back in September, TK Maxx has beaten out Topshop to become the sixth-largest fashion retailer in the UK, and has done so in part by buying up and then selling the excess retail that department and high-street stores have been unable to sell. Again, long-term ramifications of this business model for small businesses may be polarising, and are worth discussing separately. For the time being though, this is one retailer that has essentially been selling products that others aren’t able to.