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Belgian non-food retail behind closed doors: Online saves the day, except in Fashion

Because of the mandatory closure of all non- essential shops as of Wednesday March 18, there is a massive shift to online sales in week 12. This leads to almost flat sales in Electro  (-0,4%) and even strong growth in Entertainment (+12%), but not in Fashion.

Fashion retailers are facing losses up to two thirds of their turnover (-68%) and even their online sales are decreasing (-5%). In Electro, Online has become the biggest channel for the first time ever (64% value share).

In the second week of measures to slow down the outbreak of Covid-19 in Belgium, non-food retailers are forced to close their stores as of Wednesday March 18 noon.

As we already saw the week before, Fashion retailers are hit the hardest by these measures, doubling losses up to two thirds of their weekly turnover (-68%). Being confined to their homes, consumers are not inclined to spend money on new clothing or shoes, not even online (-5%).

The Electro market remains flat (-0,4%) and this is completely thanks to a landslide shift towards online sales (+166%). For the first time ever, Online has become the biggest sales channel for technical consumer goods and it has more than doubled its weight in value (64%).

Consumers continue to invest in IT and Office Equipment, a trend that started last week and is even accelerating now: laptop (+100%), monitor (+252%) and multifunctional printer (+129%) volumes are skyrocketing.

The rush on domestic appliances is increasing too: retailers sold almost 5 times more freezers and even 9 times more breadmakers than in the same week last year. Over the past two weeks, more breadmakers have been sold than usually in 2 months. Consumer are even anticipating on the closure of hairdressers, driving sales of hair clippers (+64%).

With so many people confined to their homes, consumers are willing to spent significantly more on Entertainment: sales of game consoles (+145%), games for these consoles and PC’s (+48%) and children’s books (+32%) are driving growth in this market (+12% overall).

Interesting to know, these three categories are able to grow offline too, thanks to the Mass Merchandizers channel (mixed food / non-food stores) that is still allowed to open their shops.

Distribution panel data is showing an increased strain on supply chains: volumes are down by -29% and turnover is declining by -18%. The smaller decrease in value than in volume indicates average prices are going up. This will definitely have an impact on retail prices in the coming weeks.

“It’s not only pure players (webshops) that are responsible for the explosive growth in online sales” says Wim Boesmans, Commercial Director at GfK Belgium, “also click & mortar retailers who have invested in developing their online channel are seeing huge increases in sales. It is very likely this massive shift to online will have a lasting impact on the Belgian retail landscape.”

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