By Julia Debicka
Shopping is no longer a leisurely, sensory-filled experience as retailers replace beauty samples and exotic foods with hand sanitisers and plexiglass barriers. Millions of people have continued to rely on online shopping despite the pandemic restrictions being lifted by the government. This may be due to the convenience of online shopping, the associated low risk of its use, or the instilled fear of interaction. Regardless, high streets are becoming residential and the changes are reshaping society as a whole.
Due to the traditional ways of purchasing changing rapidly, major retailers have revealed their plans to shut stores and reduce staff in order to cope with the pandemic. To alleviate financial difficulties, Ted Baker has cut 500 jobs, leading to a reduction of more than a quarter of its workforce. In 2019 alone, the retailer suffered a loss of £79.9 million. This was induced by the founder stepping down and numerous accounting errors making it difficult to restore prosperity and success. It’s evident that the pandemic has only exacerbated Ted Baker’s financial suffering. As such, it is difficult to assume whether the job cut plan will be enough to restore the company’s financial security, or whether additional measures will be needed.
A similar response has been shown by Marks & Spencer. The retailer cut 950 jobs due to its earnings declining by a fifth in the first three months of 2020; takings were the lowest in nearly three decades. Sales figures for meal kits purchased over the internet have soared by 114 per cent during lockdown, making many retailers vulnerable. Marks & Spencer have mitigated repercussions during the pandemic due to their established online presence giving people the option to shop online in the comfort of their homes. With a staggering nine in ten adults planning to shop as much if not more on the internet, small businesses offering services strictly on the high street will face major risk due to online competition.
The majority of retailers have suffered declining profit as a result of the pandemic and furlough scheme. However, it has been shown that courier services have faced significant success. Delivery firms have benefited from increased demand to shop online and the low risk posed to the safety of consumers. Hermes has decided to hire over 10,000 additional workers due to the spiking demand for online shopping. The company is also anticipating
potential demand to skyrocket during the Christmas season and so it wants to give unemployed individuals the opportunity to take up a job and receive a steady stream of income. It’s uncertain whether courier services will continue to grow in profitability, or whether they will also be vulnerable to economic stagnation and loss.
When discussing the shift to e-commerce in an application or interview, offer a balanced argument with the pros and cons of the changes. Whilst the online platform has proven favourable during lockdown, it’s clear that it has had a negative impact on the industry and endangers the traditional high street. Consider the declining employment opportunities in retail as society becomes more dependent on e-commerce and relies less on direct customer services.