How the retail trade got through the Corona crisis

According to GfK's 31st Retail Trade Documentation, the retail pandemic has acted as a catalyst in many areas. The signs for the Total 2021 retail trade are pointing to stability after an already very strong previous year. The Swiss population does not want to do without decelerating aspects from the lockdown, such as home delivery and online shopping in the future.

After slight growth in 2019, the pandemic acted as an additional accelerator and Swiss retail trade grew again overall by 2.6 percent. With total retail sales of 99.1 billion, the retail trade is closer than ever to the 100 billion mark.

The winners in online trading

Following remarkable sales growth of 12.4 percent, Coop takes the top spot from a consumer perspective for the first time since the GfK Retail Trade Publication was published. The top 10 list of Swiss retailers with sales publication is largely unchanged since the previous year. As in 2020, there are nine Swiss concepts in the top 10. Only Ikea makes it into the top 10 companies with sales reporting for publication alongside the Swiss. Digitec Galaxus, the only digital pure player in the ranking, achieved above-average sales growth of 56.4 percent in 2020.

Not all markets benefited

The food market was a big winner in the pandemic. This is due to the closure of restaurants and limited cross-border shopping.

The big winner in the non-food market was home electronics, followed by DIY. Home furnishings and toys also posted encouraging gains, while the sports market stagnated and fashion was negative. In this context, it is important to mention: Even though some of the markets were able to grow strongly, this does not mean that all retailers benefited.

Convenience remains, the physical experience becomes more important again

Among consumers, the desire for experiences is slowly returning - this leads to dynamics in opposite directions. In the area of simplification or convenience, it can be seen that around two thirds of the consumers surveyed say that they have shopped online in the last week. A third of all respondents want to use home delivery even more intensively in the future, which makes new concepts in the logistics area necessary. However, the opposite side is also exciting, the physical experience is also becoming more important again: it can be seen that consumers are again saying more often that they want to go to stationary retail in the future. While this share was only around two-thirds a short time ago, one in three out of four consumers now say this.

Online business continues to grow

Online growth in 2020 was additionally boosted by the lockdowns. The lack of stationary shopping opportunities, higher demand for home electronics and the ever-increasing range of products offered by the big players - both nationally and internationally - were further consequences and growth drivers. The online share of retail trade in Switzerland will rise to just under 12 percent in 2020 - excluding foreign countries.

What will happen in 2021?

For 2021, GfK anticipates a net stabilization compared with 2020. After a growing first quarter, which was only slightly affected by the pandemic in the previous year, the second and third quarters are likely to develop stably. For the fourth quarter, GfK expects a return to normality to the greatest possible extent, including increased travel and the possibility of cross-border shopping.

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