Earlier in the year, gloomy predictions held that the European Retail Industry was set to lose an incredible $4 billion over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Consumer confidence took a hammer blow, with retail businesses across the continent forced to close, and once-vibrant shopping centres being reduced, almost overnight, to ghost-towns.
In July, the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, pointed to a V-shaped recovery. Having collapsed in March and April, the volume of retail trade sprang back 17.8% in the eurozone and 16.4% in the broader EU. This goes some way to getting back to previous levels of economic activity – but not all the way. Particularly sensitive to declines in sales was Poland, whose retail activity declined 9% year on year in March.
In Eastern Europe, consumers have weathered crisis after crisis, and are quicker to cut frivolous expenses. Moreover, a greater proportion of the average shopping basket is taken up by food – and wage cuts and joblessness are more prevalent. In Central and Western Europe, where the economy is differently constituted, and places a greater emphasis on services, these concerns were not quite so weighty.
Fast forward a few months, and the talk of a second lockdown has jeopardised the purported recovery. The number of Covid cases from country to country has steadily risen over September, to the extent that many governments have begun to implement further lockdown measures. Whether these measures turn out to be justified is something that will have to be judged later on.
In the UK and in large parts of France, bars, pubs and restaurants are being forced to close their doors at 22:00. Facemasks are compulsory in enclosed public spaces in France, as well as everywhere in Paris. In Italy, all dance venues and nightclubs are closed.
Large sports events, which would have drawn in thousands of spectators and generated a significant amount for economies across the continent, are instead being played behind closed doors.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics points toward the ‘V’ shaped recovery, with the summer dip in sales swiftly reaching pre-Covid levels once the lockdown was lifted. However, economists warn that the rise in unemployment might endanger this recovery, and that much of the spending is a result of pent-up demand, which, once vented, will be unable to lift the volume of retail sales in the long-term.
How can I Sell to Europe at this Time?
If your business relies on trade with the continent, then you might justly worry that conditions are far from ideal. With the picture constantly changing in response to shifting politics and shifting medical data, it’s difficult to keep on top of developments. You might read about a change in circumstances in a newspaper, days or even weeks after it’s happened.
Keeping the business on course, and avoiding obstacles, means having a strong understanding of the changing markets into which you’re selling. This is where a competent retail consultant, like RSM International, can pay for itself. The right advice allows you to act on quality information, quickly and efficiently.