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UK high street faces fashion sales black hole without reform, research says

By Huw Hughes

2 Nov 2021


Image: Pexels

The UK’s high street fashion stores face 14.5 billion pounds in lost sales by 2025 due to a “dramatic shift” in consumer spending during the pandemic if changes are not made, according to new research.

The pandemic has brought forward by three years the date when the UK’s online sales are expected to overtake in-store sales, according to research by Retail Economics commissioned by Eversheds Sutherland.

That online sales ‘tipping point’ is now expected to happen in 2022 instead of a pre-pandemic prediction of 2025.

The research predicts UK retailers to be the first across some of Europe’s biggest retail markets - including Germany, France and the Netherlands - to make the shift, with 52 percent of all transactions set to occur online next year.

The Netherlands is predicted to follow in second place, hitting the same percentage in 2025.

Shifting shopping habits

But while online sales in the UK increased by 2.7 billion pounds - or 19 percent in 2020 versus 2019 - there was still an overall 24 percent drop in apparel sales of 9.6 billion pounds.

The research found that more than a third of consumers in the UK (35 percent) don’t plan to return to stores with the same frequency as they did before Covid-19.

That was the highest figure of all countries surveyed, followed by France (27 percent), Germany (25 percent) and the Netherlands (24 percent).

Millennials are the most impacted, with 34 percent in Europe and 44 percent in the UK saying they’ve changed their sopping habits permanently.

The report estimates that this shift to online will result in apparel store-based sales in the UK losing an average of 3 billion pounds a year compared to pre-pandemic projections.