Retail Tech Thursday: 88% of shoppers set to do Xmas shopping online 

Retail Tech Thursday is our weekly check-in here at Spreckley, where we share all the most interesting and useful retail and retail technology news, innovations and trends.

This week, as a new PwC survey suggests 88% of us will be doing our Christmas shopping online this year, we look at ways in which smaller independents can compete with Amazon. Plus, we take a look at Halford’s latest financial results, which show that its profits have surged during the pandemic. Elsewhere, Debenhams has announced the launch of a new ‘virtual beauty room’ to help its customers get the expert advice they need without having to visit one of the retailer’s high street stores.

88% of shoppers to do Xmas shopping online

The vast majority of British shoppers are, unsurprisingly, planning on doing their Xmas shopping online this year, with Retail Week reporting on a PwC survey this week that suggests 88% of shoppers will do all of their Christmas shopping online this year, with spending on Black Friday itself set to fall 20% year on year. 

“It’s been a year fraught with difficulties and challenges almost from the outset, and now another huge test is looming for retailers,” writes Retail Week editor, Luke Tugby. “With a second lockdown now well underway, the peak Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend is poised to become more of a digital event than ever before in the UK.

In contrast with the PwC survey is a prediction from McKinsey, which still “believes Black Friday will be “the biggest shopping day of the year” in 2020, with 56% of shoppers intending to make purchases on November 27. That compares with 39% on Cyber Monday and 38% in the last week before Christmas.

“With the prospect of increased online demand piling added pressure on to supply chains, retailers must be wary of balancing the short-term ambition to drive Black Friday sales with the longer-term requirement to enhance brand reputations.”

“Now more than ever retailers must focus on what Amazon can’t do. They must place emphasis on their sector specialisms, their green credentials, the quality of online help and advice they can offer customers, and ensuring their returns policies are flexible and multichannel – assuming of course that stores are allowed to open in January.” 

Halfords records record profits, invests in e-bikes

Cycle specialists Halfords has announced a huge profit boost over the pandemic period this week, as Essential Retail reports, with the business reporting “revenue growth of 9.6% in the 26 weeks to 2 October 2020, enabling it to achieve a pre-tax profit of £56 million, a rise of 116.2%.

“Online sales were especially strong in this period due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that began in March, up by 148%. This strong performance was largely driven by the increasing popularity of cycling during the Covid-19 lockdown, with sales in this area of Halford’s business up by 54.4% on a like-for-like basis during the six months.

This included a 184% sales increase in e-mobility and 24% rise in cycle services. Additionally, the retailer’s performance cycling business Tredz saw sales grow by 69%, while revenue went up by 38.7% in its autocentres, “accelerating quickly from June” following the easing of the first national lockdown restrictions.” 

Halfords is also now set to train an extra 1500 staff to work as specialist technicians on electric bikes, cars and scooters in 2021 and beyond, according to the latest report on The Guardian.

Debenhams launches Virtual Beauty Room 

Debenhams tops off what has been an incredibly challenging year, with a new initiative this month, launching a Virtual Beauty Room, to enable customers to get expert advice without having to visit one of the chain’s high street stores.

The Retail Bulletin reports that Debenhams “is using the service to offer customers the chance to book one-to-one virtual consultations on its website with skincare brand Shiseido and make-up brands Givenchy and Bare Minerals.  It will also be running weekly masterclasses with brands and beauty experts on its social media platforms.”

Steven Cook, Debenhams’ co-chief executive and managing director, said: “During these challenging times, health, beauty and wellbeing is more important than ever before. We wanted to ensure that our customers could still have access to our beauty experts to support them with all their beauty needs without having to leave home.

“That’s why we have introduced the virtual beauty room and we are delighted to be able to deliver free of charge consultations and masterclasses from some of the very best beauty houses across the globe.”