The stationary retail shop remains the most used distribution channel in the retail trade. Nevertheless, many retailers are planning to further expand digital distribution channels in the coming months. Digitisation is also continuing to find its way into other business processes – a trend that has been further reinforced by the corona pandemic. These are the findings of the study “Der Handel im Jahr 2021: Lehren und Folgen aus der Corona-Pandemie für den deutschen Einzelhandel” (Retail in 2021: Lessons and consequences of the corona pandemic for the German retail trade) by the research institute ibi research at the University of Regensburg. The survey, which was carried out as part of the “Digital Commerce Research Network” (DCRN), of which atriga is a founding member, illustrates the effects of corona on the German retail trade: While more than half of the stationary retailers expect sales to fall in the next twelve months compared to the previous year, 45 percent of the online retailers even plan on increasing sales.
The retail sector has been severely affected, in particular by the closure of shops in spring this year. In a survey of around 200 retailers, ibi research, together with the DCRN, investigated what lessons retail companies have learned from this period and in which areas investments should be made in the future. It became clear that there is room for improvement, especially in social media activities and digital visibility. “Online sales is not the right solution for every retailer,” reports Nils Deichner, retail expert at ibi research and co-author of the study. “However, the crisis makes it clear that retailers must not neglect digitalisation in order to remain commercially viable”.
Over-the-counter retail expected sales decline
More than half of the stationary retailers expect their sales to fall compared to the previous year. No clear trend can be identified among multi-channel retailers: The proportion of those surveyed who expect sales to increase (30 percent) is the same as that of those who expect sales to remain the same or fall. Only among the pure online retailers the mood is positive. Almost half estimate that their sales will increase in the next twelve months.
Opening up new sales channels
Almost a third of those surveyed plan to establish new sales channels in the future – regardless of whether several channels are already in use today. In this context, especially pure online retailers are expecting an increasing number of employees and an expansion of the product range.
Investment in IT infrastructure and equipment is a top priority
“The importance of digitisation and the associated deficits of the companies became particularly clear during the lockdown. Many retailers therefore want to invest in their IT infrastructure and equipment (58 percent) and in marketing in the coming year,” Deichner continues. Nevertheless, it should also be noted that due to the uncertainty of future developments, either no investments will be made or short-time working (22 percent of the stationary companies surveyed) and insolvency (16 percent) are expected.
Conclusion: Digitisation inevitable for many retailers
The retail sector is suffering from the corona pandemic. In order to reduce the damage, digitisation seems unavoidable for many retailers. However, companies often encounter hurdles such as cost and time expenditure or a lack of strategy. The corona pandemic has also shown many companies that they can count on their employees in times of crisis.