The UK retail sector was already undergoing fundamental change well before the Pandemic struck, as consumer shopping preferences shifted away from bricks and mortar high street-focused spending to online channels. Online sales had risen over 8 years from £33bn in 2012 to £76bn in 2019, but then surged by 30% in 2020 alone as lockdowns and tier restrictions limited access to physical stores. But, with a renewed focus from the Government on town centres, will a regeneration of the high street occur that benefits independent retailers?


When we last examined the UK retail market in November 2020, we were in the pre-vaccination phase of the Covid crisis and struggling through endless national, regional and local lockdowns. The retail sector had already been through a decade of change in just a few months, transforming itself to cope with the necessity of far higher online demand and all the delivery and operational challenges that involved.

The financial data available then was still entirely prepandemic with the exception of some of the major, listed retailers, which had published the very first information on the impact of Coronavirus. Because of the filing deadline regime at Companies House, the figures available in the public domain for the vast majority of retailers dated back to a very different world before everything changed.

Some fifteen months later, we can now at last see what has happened to retail finances and financial risk. It turns out to be a very surprising picture.

Business challenges faced by the retail sector

  • Understanding customer demographics and being relevant for them
  • Downsizing and re-sizing store portfolios
  • Improving online, multi-channel and physical store experiences for consumers
  • Re-shaping staffing profiles to match changed business models
  • Improving profitability of online offerings
  • Managing the returns phenomenon
  • Staying nimble in a rapidly changing retail environment
  • Repaying loans taken out during the pandemic
  • Negotiating with landlords on rent arrears and future rents
  • Managing supply chain disruption from Covid-19, Brexit and the Ukraine conflict
  • Repairing balance sheet damage caused by falling property and other asset values
  • Making sure the business is both solvent now and viable for the future, especially with increasing energy costs and other business expenses.
  • Securing adequate funding, especially for post-pandemic growth
  • Producing meaningful and realistic financial forecasts

Helping businesses in the Retail sector

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Market Sector Report

The UK Retail Market – Remarkably resilient despite the Pandemic

Some fifteen months since the last UK retail market report, we can now see what has happened and it turns out to be a surprising picture.

Read the Report