UK electrical sales saw far greater volatility over the course of the pandemic compared to the US and Canadian markets owing to varying retail restrictions implemented during the pandemic, a new study shows.
Data taken from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the sale of electrical goods in the UK saw both the greatest percentage fall and growth over the course of 2020 and 2021. At the start of the pandemic, sales fell in April 2020 by nearly 50 per cent, followed by a surge of over 60 per cent as initial restrictions began to lift in June 2020.
Over the rest of the period, the percentage change in UK electrical sales saw obvious volatility, in particular around periods of tightening and loosening of restrictions. This is particularly evident in October 2020 and January 2021, where the UK saw nationwide lockdowns imposed, limiting the trading ability of non-essential retailers and thus causing falls in sales.
Commissioned by online shopping platform Wholee, the research offers insight into the impact of the pandemic on the UK’s electrical and how it compares to the North American markets of the USA and Canada. It shows that North American electrical sales were less volatile in comparison, both in terms of the frequency and size of changes in sales.
The research also shows that the sector in the UK enjoys the largest share of total retail sales, though the size of its share has decreased from 2.99 per cent just as the pandemic hit in March 2020 to 2.47 per cent in December 2021.
The figures revealed by the research reflect the impacts of varying approaches to the virus and retailers. All three markets saw falls in sales at the start of the pandemic. In contrast, shares of total sales varied. Whereas all non-essential retailers were forced to close in the UK and US, in Canada a number of large electrical chains chose to stay open with reduced hours. As a result, the fall in sales in Canada was not as sharp, and in fact the sector saw a rise in its share of total retail sales from 2.17 per cent in February 2020 to 2.88 per cent in April 2020.
In the UK, electrical stores fell under the bracket of non-essential retail. As a result the imposition and removal of restrictions or full-scale lockdowns had a major impact on sales performance. Lockdowns in October 2020 and January 2021 saw falls of 17 per cent and 37 per cent respectively, while their subsequent removals saw a 27 per cent rise in December 2020 and 15 and 13 per cent in February and March 2021. The latter was the first time the sector saw two consecutive months of growth since May and June 2020.
Outside of the UK, a lack of further nationwide lockdowns resulted in relative stability in the US, with percentage changes of more than five per cent (positive and negative) occurring only five times between August 2020 and December 2021. Canada saw no changes of more than 20 per cent in electrical sales throughout the pandemic, despite experiencing further waves in late 2020 and March to April 2021 which resulted in restrictions on retail.
Commenting on the figures, Eleanor Thomas, Head of Research at Wholee and author of the report, said of the findings:
“Given the importance of many electrical products throughout the pandemic, it’s interesting to observe the varying volatility of electrical sales across the UK and North America.
“While the pandemic may be over, the susceptibility of sales in this sector to external influences highlights even further the need for an urgent shift towards online retail.
“It’s clear to see that the restrictions imposed in the UK had a detrimental impact on electrical sales, and questions must surely be raised as to why electrical retailers were not allowed, as they were in Canada, to remain open. This would have had the double benefit of ensuring consumers would be able to buy the goods they needed, whilst ensuring retailers could keep revenue up.
“Having emerged from a period of volatile pandemic sales, electrical sales face another challenge in the form of lingering supply chain issues, and we may well see electrical sales globally, not just in the UK, experience greater sales volatility going forward.”
Wholee is a disruptor to the online retail marketplace which connects users directly to approved factories. Launched in August 2020, Canada-based Wholee works by connecting users with over 100,000 manufacturers across the globe. It offers good quality products at wholesale prices and gives users access to millions of modern consumer products across a range of categories, including electronics, fashion, home & garden, and lifestyle. Today Wholee is servicing customers across the world, including in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France and Germany.