More British SMEs than ever are trading online in the Home & Garden sector, according to the latest figures from GS1 UK.
Since the start of the year, more than 1,000 companies in the Home & Garden space have signed up to become members of GS1 UK, with over 200 signing up in June alone.
Sarah Atkins, CMO & Membership Director of GS1 UK, said: “Our membership is highly reflective of how both consumers and business are reacting to COVID-19. Demand for home and garden products is being driven by people trying to make the restrictions bearable. It isn’t just the usual products however; there has been rocketing demand for hot tubs as well as the more usual barbeques and garden accessories, as we face a summer of uncertainty over holiday plans.
“In June, we had more than 1,200 new joiners across all sectors and, of those, almost 16% sell products for the home, showing people are making the most of their private spaces while usual routines have been restricted. It’s been harder to buy products in shops with social distancing measures in place, so a lot of smaller businesses have had to go online to sell their products and ensure their survival.”
GS1 UK’s findings coincide with the latest ONS data which shows that retail sales neared pre-lockdown levels in June as pent-up demand was released and shoppers started to return to non-essential stores.
COVID-19 has forced us to think differently about how we shop and many SMEs have had to pivot their business in creative ways to respond. There has been an expansion of online hubs such as Small and Mighty, where communities of SMEs have been brought together to offer variety to the consumer like never before. This is made possible by expertise from community founders such as Young Foodies;technology that is now more flexible and easy to deploy; and the quality data that GS1 UK can help its members generate.
Another example would be Creative Locals; the platform that has been set up to help independent businesses reach a broader audience in their local communities and often beyond. It gives small brands the chance to reach new shoppers and provides the public with an opportunity to support them and is a more sustainable shop, a trend GS1 UK believes will continue in the ‘new normal’. It offers SMEs an easy way to drive online sales with combine marketing effort, and gives consumers the chance to sample new products that they can’t browse the shelves for.
Other sectors GS1 UK’s has witnessed strong increases in during 2020 include Health & Beauty (more than 1,100 new joiners in 2020) and Apparel, Footwear & Accessories (700+).
Atkins added: “It is no surprise that during a global pandemic there should be more new joiners in the health space, but even before the current crisis we had seen a steady rise in this area as people take more accountability for their own wellbeing. There were concerns earlier in lockdown that new guidelines would mean that companies in the beauty and apparel space would suffer, but continued growth in those areas shows that people continue to want to take care of themselves.”
Despite strong growth elsewhere, Food & Grocery represents the largest percentage of overall GS1 UK membership (13%) and there is an increasing trend of new brands joining to trade though marketplaces, as well as supermarkets.
Atkins continued: “In order to prioritise essential items, supermarkets delisted non-core merchandise, much of which is produced by SMEs. It’s not a case of supermarkets being heartless. It’s just the reality of COVID-19. Retailers were reducing choice to ensure they stocked the staples. Consumers have changed their behaviour with the return of the larger single weekly shop that is more functional and less of a browsing experience. More robust supply chains have had to be introduced to keep shelves stocked, but these small manufacturers have had to become more inventive in order to not become the innocent victims of the war against the virus.”