More than one year after the outbreak of the highly infectious virus known as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, many countries are gradually lifting the restriction measures which imposed closures to non-necessity stores, bars, and venues, as well as a ban on large public gatherings. As such, the retail industry faces substantial shifts: the amount of growth in retail sales had already dropped between 2019 and 2020, even before the outbreak of the virus, which is certain to have further ramifications. Certain sectors have witnessed growth, with and considerable increases in sales of consumer goods recorded in heavily affected countries, such as the United States, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This increase is in part because grocery stores have remained open and consumers appear to be stocking up on certain goods and supplies. The distancing measures enforced during 2020 and the surge of online retail caused high rates of store closings in the retail and leisure sector. The retail group Inditex recorded the highest number, with one thousand worldwide store closures announced in the first half of 2020 .

United States and China

Back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit many countries globally, it caused a surge in consumer spending in China and the United States, with a high share of consumers stockpiling food. In the United States, general merchandisers or multi-purpose outlets like Walmart and Target have gained the most, with dollars sales of consumer packaged goods increasing 10 percent relative to the year before. In 2021, the outstanding growth of grocery retailers slowed down, while wholesale clubs and discount stores reported the highest spending growth compared to the pre-COVID period, unlike department stores.
Within China, the first outbreak location of the pandemic, multiple industries, including transportation, trade, and recreation, experienced declines from pre-COVID-19 levels. Sales of consumer goods dropped across the country in the first two months of 2020 when compared to the same period of the previous year. Since then, sales have gradually increased peaking in January and February 2021, due to the occurrence of New Year.

European consumers

As the pandemic spread, Italy became a hot spot. During the ensuing lockdown, E-commerce sales in Italy have seen definite increases throughout the duration of the outbreak. Large-scale retail centers, such as supermarkets and discounters, also experienced growth in sales. However, non-food consumer goods experienced a significant decline during the first wave of the pandemic and, despite the rise during the Christmas period, have not reached pre-pandemic levels yet. Germany followed many of the precautions that other countries implemented, including shutting down, public spaces, sporting events, bars, and restaurants. These recommendations and official guidelines impacted the retail sector as well as almost all industries. However, after the all-time low registered between December 2020 and January 2021, the monthly retail sales have not ceased to grow. In the UK, online retail sales stayed on the upswing in 2021 and the whole non-store retail registered high percentages of turnover increase , only followed by the category of household goods’ retail. Data from France showed positive growth of home delivery services provided by retailers during the first months of 2021, after the all-time peak over March 2020.

The majority of consumers changed their behavior, staying at home more, washing their hands frequently, and practicing social distancing. At the beginning of 2021, 25 to 48 percent (depending on the country) of European consumers still preferred to avoid brick and mortar stores due to distancing rules. In April 2021, only one-third of U.S. consumers wanted to enter shopping malls again while even a lower percentage reported the same for grocery stores in the same period.

For further information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please visit our dedicated Facts and Figures page.

Interesting statistics

In the following 7 chapters, you will quickly find the 45 most important statistics relating to "Coronavirus: impact on the retail industry worldwide".


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