Coronavirus changing shopping habits ‘for ever’, says M&S chief

The high street shutdown has changed some shopping habits for ever, according to the chief executive of Marks & Spencer.
Steve Rowe said the health crisis would speed up the switch from the high street to the internet and trigger big shifts in how people shopped, dressed and ate.
With office workers into their second month of working from home, the retailers formalwear sales have nosedived. On conference calls I havent seen anyone in a suit yet, said Rowe. We are barely selling any suits and the number of ties I could probably count on one hand.
The flipside is bumper demand for clothes made out of stretchy fabrics or in relaxed fits, with strong sales of joggers, leggings and even pyjamas. Comfort is king for women: demand for non-wired bras has more than doubled.
People were also taking a different approach to food shopping, said Rowe. Food stores with car parks have become M&Ss busiest outlets, as shoppers revert to doing one big weekly shop rather than daily visits. That has translated into higher sales of family-sized packs of meat, fish and fresh fruit as well as frozen food.
M&Ss food halls are usually a convenience destination, thanks to shelves full of ready meals and sandwiches, but that had also changed too, as Britons embrace cooking from scratch. Sales of herbs and spices have tripled in recent weeks, while demand for unprepared vegetables, such as mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, was up by nearly 30%.
Whilst some customer habits will return to normal others, have changed for ever, Rowe added. The retailer is closing 100 to 120 stores and expects a third of its clothing sales to move online.
M&S said 365,000 of its existing customers had used its website for the first time during lockdown while another 315,000 had either tried it out or returned as shoppers. All this online shopping is also happening earlier than usual. Peak shopping hour is now four hours earlier, at 3pm, and desktop visits are up by nearly 40%.
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