Online shopping

Pandemic spending habits settle into ‘new normal’ after online shopping boom

Tuesday 08 March 2022 06:03

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Pandemic spending habits have “settled into a new normal”, with people returning to brick-and-mortar stores to “try before you buy” last month.

Total retail sales rose 4.9% in February compared to the same month in 2020, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail sales monitor KPMG.

Sales continued to grow despite the impact of declining consumer confidence and lower footfall due to Storm Eunice.

Clothing and footwear categories boosted sales after Covid restrictions were lifted and shoppers searched for back-to-work outfits.

With the opening of physical stores, online non-food sales fell 28.4%, compared to growth of 82.2% in February 2021.

It comes as shoppers flock to online websites during times of Covid restrictions and adopt new e-commerce habits.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Traditional try-before-you-buy products, such as furniture and home accessories, as well as fashion and jewellery, continued to perform best as more and more people were going back to the stores.”

Although online sales have fallen from pandemic highs, “new spending habits driven by the pandemic have settled into a new normal,” she said.

This was particularly the case for non-food items, with four in ten pounds now spent online, up from three in ten before the pandemic.

“Retail has driven five years of digital transformation in 24 tumultuous months,” Dickinson said.

However, retail chiefs have warned that rising prices and concerns over the cost of living will likely dampen growth in the coming months.

Grocery bills have soared in recent weeks while consumers also face huge hikes in energy and national insurance costs next month.

Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG, said: “As we enter a new phase of managing COVID-19, retailers will be focused on keeping consumer spending in check as the compression of the cost of living threatens the health of the sector. With travel reopening, retailers are facing a double whammy of competition for share of wallet at the same time as the cost of living hits a level not seen in at least three decades.