Paul Marchant, CEO of Irish fast-fashion retailer Primark, does not agree with claims that the COVID-19 outbreak has made shoppers move to online shopping permanently. Paul Marchant says that people claiming there is an inevitable and permanent shift to e-commerce are “wrong and naïve”.
“Anyone who thinks that shopping in person is over or outdated would be naïve”, says Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, in an article of The Times. “All we can say confidently about the increase in online shopping during lockdown is that the shops were shut”, Paul adds.
The state of a town affects people
Primark has done research which claims that shoppers show civic pride and care about the towns they live in. “When we asked where people’s identity mainly came from, the top answer was their village, town, or city. The state of a town affects how people feel about themselves.”
Paul continues on about how a declining town affects people’s civic pride, and by extension, self-esteem. “How do they measure that decline? By the number of shops boarded up. For a large group of people, shops play an important part in their lives. Shopping is a social event, a physical experience.”
Support physical stores
Paul believes that supporting physical stores should be top of the leveling-up agenda. “For any government that wants to rejuvenate town centers, every time a shop shuts an alarm bell should ring in Whitehall.” One of his suggestions to save physical retail, is by introducing a “zero VAT” period after the vaccine rollout, to kickstart the high street.
Last October, the United Kingdom saw a record retail sales growth during the third quarter. Retail sales volumes increased by 1.5% in September and were 4.7% higher than a year earlier. The retail sales in the UK beat expectations and were above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.
Shopping heavily online
Nonetheless, data from the UK Office for National Statistics show clearly that consumers continue to shop heavily online. In January and February 2020 e-commerce sales accounted for about 20% of total retail sales, but in May this increased to 32.8%. Furthermore, in October, it was still at 28.1%.