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Countdown to Christmas – How are European consumers shopping as we head towards a Covid-Christmas?

December 16, 2020 BySensormatic News Desk

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Fast changing events have changed European consumers’ shopping plans and patterns in the run up to Christmas. Many people brought their plans forward for a variety of reasons – impatience with having their movements restricted, a determination to have fun at Christmas after a year of restraint, and fears that retailers might run out of stock early.

Based on our ShopperTrak traffic analysis, there is an overall pattern across Europe that is consistent from country to country – a huge dip as countries went into lockdown and stores closed, and a gradual recovery as they reopened, with some peaks in August and September; and then followed by another trough during lockdown 2, which ended with another spike as stores reopened for the second time.

This second trough varied significantly across Europe with French footfall falling more than any other nation, while Switzerland and Germany had the shallowest falls to date. However, this is likely to change as Germany goes back into partial lockdown and close all non-essential stores between 16 December 2020 – 10 January 2021. Other countries may follow suit with partial lockdowns or switch from lower to higher tiers as their situations change.

For retailers, all of whom had done as much as they could to keep trading whilst keeping their staff and customers safe, the peak trading period has been one of enormous frustration, for two reasons. The first was being told by their governments to close after they had got used to being open again after lockdown 1. The second was the pressure of trading in a pandemic, which has had a cumulative affect on staff morale and customer behaviour in store.

Even after mass vaccination returns the world to some kind of normal, it is already predicted that nothing will ever be the same again, particularly as so much retail spend has shifted online. The most dramatic figure comes extrapolating figures from the US Census and the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) which suggests that by comparing UK online sales against retail excluding grocery, ecommerce is now 40% of revenue.

In addition, ONS figures show that online grocery alone moved from 5% to 10% of spend in 2020, and by adding non food, the result is, around half of all online sales are now fulfilled from stores, whether picked by staff or fulfilled using methods such as click and collect.

It is clear therefore that the store and online are working more closely together than ever, which will shift more responsibility to retailers to manage stores appropriate to more varied and ever changing customer behaviours.

Traffic is just the baseline for action, which must be complemented by integrating existing video cameras to act as data points. By understanding traffic numbers, flows and dwell times, and then to order management systems, retailers can schedule staff to ensure that they are not overspending on labour, but also that they can allocate their best salespersons to capture the strongest opportunities.

At the same time, video is performing another valuable task that staff would otherwise have to monitor, which takes them away from selling – loss prevention. Video monitors suspicious and illegal activity so that security staff can act accordingly. Data gathered can be used short term to pursue prosecutions, but longer term to adapt store layouts, review electronic article surveillance systems and determine which articles need to be tagged due to high vulnerability to theft.

Article tagging using RFID also enables store staff to get an accurate picture of stock levels and stock status in real time, which enables them to guarantee that an item is in stock, but also to allocate stock the meet different types of demand and fulfilment – shopfloor, stock room, layaway, click and collect and special orders.

The real prize however comes from being able to extract data from all devices in the store to build a broad picture of each site that will enable advanced analytics to take place to drive product allocation and assortment, primary sales against online fulfilment space, mix of staff roles and overall store design. With so many retailers reviewing their store estates in terms of total numbers, size and design, deep analytics into activity will determine what the store needs to look like in the future.

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