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COVID-19 retail impacts: 23 March 2020

23 Mar 2020 / By: Kantar Research Team

Welcome to today’s briefing on the effects of Coronavirus on the retail landscape in Europe and EMEA. While in no way definitive, we hope to ensure our clients are kept as informed as possible on new initiatives, developments and trends emerging as this crisis unfolds.


France: The French parliament today agreed a ‘health state of emergency’, indicating the two-week nationwide self-confinement period will likely be extended indefinitely. The legislation permits restrictions on freedom of movement and allows authorities to requisition goods and services over a period of two months. Leading French retailers have rewarded staff with bonuses as pressures on supply chain and the need to maintain full shelves show little sign of slowing.

Online continues to be in high demand with intermediary Stuart, which works with Casino banners and others, seeing volumes increasing by 250% since early March. In an innovative move, Carrefour has debuted a programme called ‘Essentiels’, a home-delivered subscription service offering pre-prepared packages containing food staples

The focus has now switched to maintaining supply of essential items as indicated by the decision of to cease shipping non-essential orders, a move mirrored by its Italian arm. With a new Kantar Worldpanel report showing Amazon as the clear ecommerce leader in France, its ability to deliver on shopper expectations is being tested like never before. Elsewhere, luxury brand specialist Kering is switching its high-end fashion brands to manufacturing medical clothing following a similar move from rival LVMH.

Germany: Tighter restrictions on public behaviour have been announced, leaving grocery stores, pharmacy and online as the only retail activity now permissible. The government also revealed a new stimulus package that will entail borrowing of ~EUR155 billion to support SMEs and other businesses. Also announced are special regulations regarding seasonal workers in agriculture with fears growing that the 85,000 workers needed may not be available. The fallout from many non-essential retail jobs being lost is being mitigated by initiatives such as Aldi offering displaced McDonald’s staff temporary work.

UK: Footfall last week fell by 41% YoY according to the latest metrics from Springboard, prompting numerous non-food retailers to close their doors temporarily as the country prepares for more stringent containment measures. John Lewis and Arcadia Group are among the big names shutting stores, although it will maintain online operations. This is not a solution available to value clothing chain Primark. Tesco, which recently cut payment times for small suppliers, has now cut them further, assuring payments in five days from the previous 14.

Watch now: Webinar: How UK brands can survive the COVID-19 crisis

Spain: The government is expected to expand emergency measures that began a week ago with a lockdown anticipated to be the most rigorous yet seen outside China. Manufacturing will be required to focus exclusively on essential supplies. Leading retailer Mercadona has responded to the crisis with a video featuring its key suppliers and a defiant call that the crisis will not inflict lasting damage on the industry in Spain.

Italy: On Sunday 22 March, authorities shut down all non-essential factories and businesses in response to the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the country. Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and post offices can remain open under the regulations, with store queues strictly monitored and even tighter restrictions on the in-store shopper numbers.

Further Reading: Lessons in retail during the COVID-19 war

Rest of Europe

Coronavirus concerns are driving uptake in contactless payments in Eastern Europe, with Biedronka in Poland taking steps to encourage greater use of the method, while in Russia it is accelerating trials of facial recognition payment. In Greece, a nationwide lockdown means new operating constraints for supermarkets. Migros Ticaret, one of the biggest retailers in Turkey is actively recruiting online staff, while Carrefour’s Turkish franchisee says it has seen unprecedented demand for its ecommerce offer in the past week. Sweden-based H&M has pledged to switch its global supply chain to the supply of medical gear.

Rest of World:

Thailand has imposed a shutdown on all retail activity bar essential operators, while in India, confusion over how new protective measures should be implemented has led to ecommerce players seeing their operations disrupted while food delivery specialist Zomato is to offer its services to online grocers as its client restaurants close. Carrefour UAE has seen a massive spike on online grocery demand, while Nigeria-based pan-African ecommerce player is working with governments in all its operational markets to help with fulfilment of needed supplies and fintech solutions.

Signs that China-based businesses may feel the worst of the crisis has passed can be seen in Alibaba’s logistics arm planning 200 global cargo flights this month to restore supply, and rival teaming with brands for a promotion intended to stimulate consumption.

You can gain further insight and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on brands and retail by visiting the dedicated Coronavirus content page at Click here to visit the page.

Kantar Research Team

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