We recently read about one of our clients making headlines in the BBC and the Guardian News recently; Hornby: Model Train Maker Steams Ahead During Lockdown.

With more people taking up hobbies in the Coronavirus lockdowns and families spending more time at home, the 119 year old toymaker Hornby have seen sales surge by 33% in the six months to the end of September, with the big jump in online sales attributed to customers shopping online more than ever before, and seeking comfort in familiar brands they love.

Despite the global pandemic causing some early uncertainty and supply chain issues for the model train maker, the business was able to adapt and navigate the challenges to deliver fantastic double-digit growth throughout 2020.

The Hornby business has also been laying the foundations for growth with a strong innovation agenda since 2017, embracing new products to widen out its range with mobile phone and blue tooth technologies, which is further adding to the brands reinvigoration and ongoing success.

‘Hornby’s chief executive, Lyndon Davies, celebrated the company’s return to profitability, ascribing it to “growing sales and margins built on the back of the introduction of some fantastic new products, new technology and the changing environment”’. Reference: Guardian Article 29 October 2020

The Hornby story during this most tumultuous of years, is not an unfamiliar one.   Williams Commerce portfolio of hundreds of clients give us a unique insight into overall sales performance over the year, and many retailers from all sorts of industry sectors have seen their ecommerce business receive a significant boost from Coronavirus restrictions throughout 2020.

It has been a tale of two stories for many companies.  Those retailers who have invested strongly over the past years in their ecommerce division, and are a pure play ecommerce operation, have been well prepared, and adapted quickly to cope with the huge influx in online demand created by the enforced closures on non-essential retail stores as part of strict lockdown measures.

These online retailers have experienced unprecedented record-breaking month after month since March 2020.   This has played out unsurprisingly across food, drink and FMCG businesses, but we have also seen outstanding ecommerce growth from sectors including homewares, beauty, children’s fashion and shoe brands, outdoor apparel, supplements, and pharmaceuticals.

For some retailers with a heavier reliance on bricks and mortar stores plus a fledging ecommerce division, have had to scramble to adapt their online operation fast to cater to the shift to online. All with the backdrop of supply chain issues, staff furlough schemes and the huge uncertainty in trading conditions.

For B2Bs, many of their trade customers, who for decades have depended on more traditional ordering methods via depots and sales reps,  has seen a seismic and perhaps irreversible shift to ecommerce, as those trade customers have discovered the ease and convenience of online shopping.

Even as the high street has opened back up, things are far from normal, with social distancing measures, queues commonplace and footfall into stores restricted.  Much of the population is reluctant to return to physical shopping resulting in a major boom for online.  It is forecast UK consumers will spend £141.33bn online this year, up a massive 34.7% from 2019.  With ecommerce now accounting for more than 30% of total retail sales in the UK for the first time.  Reference: eMarketer.com

As a full-service digital ecommerce agency, we have seen the challenge this trading period has been for many organisations. However, with the right strategic focus on a digital first approach, businesses can not only weather the storm but in many cases see an uplift in business as they engage their customers in new ways. As a result, we have had one of the busiest periods on record, supporting both our existing client base, whilst simultaneously taking on a large wave of retail clients seeking out the latest ecommerce technologies.

Throughout the pandemic, the Williams Commerce front-line support teams have been busy ensuring our clients’ ecommerce stores are well maintained and have the appropriate bandwidth to cope with the surge in online traffic.  Our project teams have taken on new proactive development agendas to add on new features and integrations to help retailers cope with the changing environment.  And our digital marketing team tuning digital marketing agendas across paid search, social media marketing, email marketing and SEO to adapt to the fast-moving circumstances.

What is in no doubt, online shopping habits formed during 2020’s global pandemic look set to endure and an accelerated shift to purchases being made digitally is well underway.