The closure of the main street has changed some buying habits “forever,” according to Marks & Spencer general manager.
Steve Rowe said the health crisis would accelerate the transition from the main street to the Internet and trigger big changes in the way people shop, dress and eat.
With office workers in their second month of homework, the retailer’s formal wear sales dropped. “At conference calls, I haven’t seen anyone in suits yet,” said Rowe. “We barely sell suits and the number of ties I could probably count on the one hand. “
The flip side is an exceptional demand for clothes in stretch fabrics or in casual cut, with strong sales of joggers, leggings and even pajamas. Comfort is king for women: the demand for bras without underwiring has more than doubled.
People were also taking a different approach to buying food, said Rowe. Grocery stores with parking lots have become M&S ‘busiest outlets, with shoppers returning to doing a weekly department store rather than daily visits. This has resulted in increased sales of family-size packages of fresh meat, fish and fruit, as well as frozen products.
M&S food halls are generally a convenient destination, thanks to shelves filled with ready meals and sandwiches, but that has also changed, with the British adopting cooking from scratch. Sales of herbs and spices have tripled in recent weeks, while demand for “unprocessed” vegetables, such as mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, has increased by almost 30%.
“While some customer habits will revert to others, they have changed forever,” added Rowe. The retailer is closing 100 to 120 stores and anticipates that a third of its clothing sales will move online.
M&S said that 365,000 of its existing customers had used its website for the first time during the lockout, while another 315,000 had tried it or returned as buyers. All of these online purchases are also happening earlier than usual. Rush hours are now four hours earlier at 3 p.m. and desktop visits have increased by almost 40%.