• Paul Kelson

Online shopping growth drives e-commerce job demand

The boom in online shopping during the Coronavirus has seen more than one in seven UK retailers (15 per cent) create roles specifically to cater to an increase in digital sales and boost online capacity.

This is according to a study of over 300 senior retail executives conducted by Barclays Corporate Banking, which showed that 26 per cent think the pandemic has accelerated a ‘technological revolution’ in retail.

A third of retailers have had website upgrades, while just under that amount have started to accept new payment methods and 26 per cent have embraced data analytics for the first time.

Additionally, to help reduce queues in-store, nearly a quarter of retailers (24 per cent) have started offering Click and Collect options, with home improvement and DIY retailers (40 per cent) most likely to have introduced this during lockdown.

The home improvement category was also the most confident of growth in the short-term, with 80 per cent positive about revenue growth in the next three months - compared to an industry average of 60 per cent.

Longer term, 94 per cent of retail industry bosses were optimistic about growth opportunities in the next year – a figure that peaks among large supermarket brands at 97 per cent.

Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale for Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “Despite the unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, the results of our survey are encouraging, and it is great to see retail leaders confident about their prospects - many are using the ‘new normal’ to innovate and adapt their business models.”

Another emerging development is the shift towards a more localised retail model. Just under two fifths (39 per cent) of Barclays’ research respondents experienced supply chain disruption during lockdown, and over a quarter (27 per cent) are moving to suppliers based closer by as a result.

In addition, 28 per cent plan to do more to support local communities, while a fifth believe the future of retail is in local high streets rather than city centres.

With homeworking set to continue for many people, in parallel with concern about public transport and busy shopping areas, the research showed a move towards more localised business operations. For example, 15 per cent of retailers plan to reduce the number of physical stores they have in urban areas close to office buildings within the next year.

Health and beauty retailers (28 per cent), supermarkets (19 per cent) and food and drink retailers (18 per cent) were most likely to do so in the next 12 months. One in five said that the future of the physical retail industry will be on local high streets rather than in city centres.

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