Many Belgian retailers, who were forced to set up a webshop during COVID-19, see this as something temporary, according to UAnterwerpen. “They don’t seem to take their online store really seriously,” says Joris Beckers, UAntwerpen. “A pity, because even after COVID-19 there will be more online shopping.”
With the COVID-19 outbreak in March, all non-essential stores in Flanders had to close their doors. Research by Joris Beckers and Ann Verhetsel, affiliated with the Department of Transport and Spatial Economics of the University of Antwerp, shows that 50% of the traders who have not yet sold online have started to do so. On average, they were able to realize 20% of their normal turnover. In combination with the government support, this was enough for many traders to keep afloat. It may explain why many retailers do not take their newly opened webshop too seriously. For example, only 25% of retailers used a professional company or a (sector) organization to set it up.
Many consumers choose local webshops
Consumers also started to buy online en masse. Major international players such as bol.com and Zalando are among the few winners in this crisis, but the average number of online purchases per month of local food and non-food also rose by 110% and 66% respectively. Joris Beckers: “This is quite logical for food, because it makes little sense to order it in, say, the Netherlands, but the fact that many non-food products were also bought locally is encouraging. It shows that many consumers do not only choose Coolblue and Amazon, but also the local webshop. ”
This is also evident from a survey that the researchers conducted among small retailers. The average number of online orders per week doubled for these stores. “The ‘shop here’ and ‘buy locally’ campaigns have helped, as the figures once again show. The vast majority of these new orders came from local buyers. This can be seen in the share of local online orders in the total turnover. That rose by more than 15% to over 70% ”, Beckers explains. The neighborhood shop could therefore serve its local consumers through the online offer.
70% do not consider the online store as important
Many shops closed for the second time in early November. The webshop will therefore be central again. “Unfortunately, our research shows that many retailers do not take their newly opened webshop seriously. For example, only 25% of the retailers used a professional company or a (sector) organization to set it up. The majority of the new sales channels were therefore put together by the retailer himself in the time that became available. Moreover, 60% do not charge delivery costs, although more than half of the respondents indicated that they do the delivery themselves, the majority even over distances of more than 10 km. And finally, 70% do not see the online store as an important sales channel in the future. For most local stores, web sales seem more like a temporary survival strategy than a sustainable transition to an innovative retail trade. ”