Why has online retailing not grown more during the Covid crisis? And what does that tell us about its limitations?
This may seem like a strange question. Of course, online retailing surged while everyone was locked down at home, and it seems likely at least some of that forced behaviour will stick.
In the UK, online penetration of non-food retail rose from just over 20% to nearly 30% in April and May. But when most shops were shut this is hardly surprising. And in a market which had contracted by up to 40%, the absolute growth in the ecommerce channel has been quite modest. Even by June, online penetration had begun to shrink again.
In countries which exited lockdown earlier, online retail is slipping back towards January penetration. For example, South Korea had a six percentage-point uplift at peak, but has now stabilised at 1-2% up. Online in China is about half the way back to pre-Covid levels.
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