Retail: COVID-19, a trend accelerator?

After the medical findings, the retail trade findings after the lockdown were up. For some sectors these were worrying, for others promising. Here are 5 trends that were already abundantly present before COVID-19 and that have been decisively reinforced by this new crisis.

The return to local shops and short supply chains

Although alimentary shops are the clear winners of this COVID-19 crisis, this observation should be differentiated according to the type of shop.

The real winners were the convenience stores, which is logical as the citizens of France were only allowed to move within a certain radius of their home for a few weeks. In Belgium and Luxembourg, unnecessary travel outside the municipality was discouraged too.

However, we think there’s more to it than that: because of the lockdown, people were forced to retreat into their neighbourhood, and as a result some people seemed to (re)discover their immediate surroundings. It has also been an opportunity for many to reconnect with local traders and producers. This is evidenced by the success of the local grocery stores, farm sales and concepts such as “La Ruche qui dit oui“, where you can buy directly from the producer. These initiatives have attracted a new type of customer. Short supply chains are all the more popular especially as the pandemic has increased distrust of products as a result of globalisation. What will remain of these new habits?

On the other hand, hypermarkets are running at half speed. Not in absolute numbers, because just like other alimentary shops they have seen their sales numbers increase during the coronavirus crisis. Proportionally, however, this increase was much smaller than at supermarkets and convenience stores, so we can see that hypermarkets seem to continue their declining trend.

Organic is hot

Since the beginning of the health crisis, we have seen that the consumption of organic products, which was already on the rise, has increased even more than that of non-organic products. This is thanks to both to the increased use of organic grocery stores and farms during the lockdown and to a change in choice in the large supermarkets.

COVID-19 has clearly inspired people to take care of their well-being and health and as organic is perceived as healthier, it was a natural choice for many to switch to organic. Moreover, this trend applies not only to food, but also to cleaning and hygiene products …

E-commerce, home delivery, drive: success formats

The lockdown has caused an explosive growth in online sales

… to levels never seen before in Europe. The major e-commerce players have logically benefited from this, but we are also pleased to see that the crisis has finally led the retail sector to catch up, in a record time. Indeed, many physical companies have created web shops in extremis when the lockdown was announced.

The cities have also taken many initiatives to pool the efforts of the shops. Some have simply identified and listed the stores that sell online, deliver at home, etc. within their territory. Others have gone a bit further, such as Angers. With the support of the city, 200 vendors have created a common platform, called Angersshopping. Traders can sell their products there at no extra cost.

Existing local e-commerce platforms have received a major boost thanks to COVID-19. An example of this is Letzshop in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a country that has lagged behind in e-commerce. Letzshop saw its offer grow by 15% in three months, while the number of users almost quadrupled. This means that the crisis has benefited not only Amazon, but the entire e-commerce industry. We are convinced that if we offer our consumers alternatives, they will prefer local brands.

Home delivery is popular …

… during a time when one is less inclined to deal with others, also for groceries. It has been a solution for many restaurant owners, but also a much sought-after service in large food stores (for those who were still offering it). Not to mention concepts such as HelloFresh, a specialist in home-delivery of meal boxes, which saw its turnover increase by 66% in the first quarter of 2020 alone.

The same success we see for the drive or click & collect formats, which were already popular before COVID-19: some drives have seen their sales triple, others have even managed to almost match the sales of the physical store they are attached to.


Physical textile shops go downhill

E-commerce is causing many problems for the clothing sector. Again, this is a trend that predates the coronavirus, but the lockdown has attracted an audience that had never been involved in e-commerce before. And textile retailing is one of the sectors that pays the price, more than others. Camaïeu, Naf-naf, La Halle, André … French retailers are particularly affected by this evolution.

We believe it’s necessary for these struggling brands and the ones taking them over to rethink these concepts, or they will risk disappearing forever. We recommend:

  • that the brands are housed in businesses with formats that are better suited to the location, with an adequate offer.
  • that the positioning of the brand is clearer: average, low …?
  • seizing the opportunity of tomorrow’s local fygital retailer, offering a unique experience and playing on the physical – digital complementarities. Without forgetting better adaptation to local realities.

Second hand becomes first choice

Today’s consumers are more observant, more critical. They look for the best prices and take more time to make a decision. We are convinced that the impact of the crisis on consumers’ finances will only continue this trend of rationalising consumption.

And one of the solutions to consume cheaper, get rid of clothes and objects that have become superfluous and even make a little money is second-hand. Although second-hand shops have been around for a long time, the wave of sustainable and responsible consumption has given them a second chance. 47% of French people bought second-hand in 2008, compared to 60% ten years later.

Marketplace is a hit, while a site like Vinted has seen a spectacular rise. The platform already has 25 million members worldwide. In France alone, transactions have increased by 230% in one year and 400,000 articles have been added, at an average price of 15 euros. This now makes Vinted a serious competitor to the multinational online sales companies. Moreover, according to Médiamétrie, 1.5 million Internet users consult Vinted every day, placing it in the top 5 of e-commerce, just behind eBay.


What about you? How do you see your business project in a world turned upside down by COVID-19? We are here to help you. We analyse trends and study the market to optimise the (re)location of your projects.

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