EuroCommerce director general Christian Verschueren has emphasised on the need to prioritise retailers and wholesalers, particularly SMEs, in national recovery plans aimed at helping businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
During a virtual conference held by the World Retail Congress, Verschueren outlined the challenges facing the retail sector across Europe and its role in supporting European economic recovery.
He stated, “Retail has been affected in different ways during the pandemic, but the whole ecosystem will see major change resulting from it. We will see a number of well-known retailers close their doors forever, with fashion retail particularly hard hit, and others cutting the number of shops and staff they presently have.”
'Digital Innovation And Sustainability'
He also highlighted that the pandemic has driven consumers towards online channels, and added, “Private consumption makes up some 60% of EU GDP, and if retail is in trouble, so will the rest of the economy be.
"Equally, with help in speeding up its already active engagement with digital innovation and sustainability, the retail and wholesale ecosystem can be a powerful driver for getting Europe back on its feet again.”
Retailers and wholesalers provide direct access to consumers, valuable insights about what they are buying, efficient distribution and professional expertise and services, EuroCommerce said.
The sector employs around 29 million Europeans and is an important source of revenue for families of those employed in the sector.
It is also essential in keeping rural communities and urban centres an attractive place to live and work.
Verschueren added that national recovery plans should help retail and wholesale businesses step up their digitisation efforts, make operations sustainable across the board and support skill development to meet new challenges.
Impact Of Pandemic
Food and grocery retailers saw a sudden surge in demand for essentials during the pandemic, while suppliers and logistics firms either closed or struggled to meet demands, EuroCommerce noted.
Retailers who stayed open incurred significant costs to keep staff and customers safe and find alternative sources in the event of disruptions.
Non-food retailers witnessed up to a 90% decline in footfall and sales due to lockdown measures and restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus.
Wholesalers supplying a largely closed catering and hospitality industry saw their sales fall away to nearly nothing, EuroCommerce added.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Dayeeta Das. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.