PlayStation and Moonpig’s UK sales soar amid virus crisis

3 April 2020 | Finance

Spending on PlayStation more than doubled in March, while local convenience stores such as Nisa and Costcutter recorded a surge in sales, according to the online bank Revolut. But JD Wetherspoon, the pubs chain, was among the biggest losers in the UK.

Revolut’s customers are likely to be younger and slightly more urban than account holders at the traditional big banks. But the data – taken from spending by the digital lender’s 3 million customers from 1-31 March – gives a strong indication of the consumption patterns that have emerged since the pandemic gripped Britain.

Quick guide

UK high street woes

High street closures in 2019

Thousands of high street jobs have been lost in the last 12 months as a result of high profile retail administrations, and thousands more are at risk as Mothercare, Debenhams and Forever 21 prepare for closures. Here are some of the key industry names that have been affected.

Mothercare: Has 79 stores and 2,500 UK retail staff as its British arm prepares to go into administration.

Regis/Supercuts: Had 220 salons and 1,200 staff when it went into administration in October 2019.

Bonmarché: Had 318 stores and 2,887 employees when it went into administration in October 2019. It is still trading as it seeks a buyer.

Watt Brothers: The Scottish department chain had 11 stores and 306 employees when it went into administration in October 2019. All the stores closed and the majority of jobs have gone.

Links of London: With 35 stores and 350 staff, the jewellery chain went into administration on 8 October 2019 but its sites are still trading.

Forever 21: Had three stores and about 290 employees in the UK when it went into administration in September 2019. Stores are staying open in order to clear stock.

Albemarle & Bond: Suddenly shut all its 116 stores in September 2019 with the loss of about 400 jobs, even though it did not call in administrators. It sold its pledge books to rival H&T in the same month.

Karen Millen and Coast: Had 32 stores and 177 concessions, employing 1,100 people, when it went into administration in August 2019. All sites were closed and the vast majority of staff made redundant after the brands were bought out by online specialist

Jack Wills: Had about 100 stores and 1,700 staff in the UK when went into administration in August 2019. Bought by Sports Direct and 98 stores are still trading in the UK and Ireland.

Spudulike: Closed all 37 stores with the loss of about 300 jobs when it went into administration in August.

Bathstore: Had 132 stores and 529 staff when it went into administration in June 2019. Homebase bought 44 stores saving 154 jobs and the brand now trades from 28 stores.

Select: Had 180 stores and 2,000 employees when the fashion retailer went into administration in May 2019. In June administrators at advisory firm Quantuma carried out a CVA closing 11 stores with the loss of about 200 jobs.

Debenhams: Had 166 department stores and more than 25,000 employees when went into administration in April 2019. No store closed immediately and the chain is now owned by its lenders but two closed before Christmas with another 20 due to shut in January when the group completes a rescue restructure expected to result in the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Pretty Green: Had 12 stores and about 170 employees when Liam Gallagher’s fashion outlet went into administration in March 2019. All but one store and 33 concessions closed with 100 jobs lost but 67 saved as the brand was bought by JD Sports in April.

Office Outlet: All 94 stores have closed with the loss of 1,170 jobs after the stationery retailer went into administration in March 2019.

LK Bennett: Had 41 stores and 500 employees when it went into administration in March 2019. The brand was bought by its Chinese franchise partner, Rebecca Feng, saving 21 stores, all the group’s concessions and 325 jobs. But more than 100 jobs lost with the closure of 15 stores.

Patisserie Valerie: Had 200 cafes employing nearly 3,000 people when an accounting scandal prompted the chain to call in administrators in January 2019. About 70 of the group’s 200 stores closed immediately with the loss of 900 jobs. About 2,000 jobs were saved when about 100 Patisserie Valerie cafes were rescued by Causeway Capital, more than 20 of which have since closed. 21 Philpotts sandwich shops were bought by AF Blakemore & Son. and four Baker & Spice cafes a were bought by the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs.

Sarah Butler

Photograph: Jill Mead
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The surprise winner was Moonpig. Revolut said transactions at the online personalised cards company soared by 156% during the month. The retailer said it had been so busy since the virus struck that its orders were taking a week longer to deliver than normal.

Games companies also had a big increase as people stayed at home. Transactions at the online firm Steam Games rose 116% in March, while PlayStation was up 105%. Britons were also watching more television (Netflix transactions were up 4%) and streaming more music (Spotify gained 9%).

JD Wetherspoon, which had pledged to keep its 867 pubs open as long as possible, until they were shut by government measures, recorded the sharpest drop in transactions among Revolut’s customers. They declined by 86% during the month.

At Pret a Manger, transactions were down 82%; at Nando’s they fell 78%. All the big high street store chains experienced a 70-80% decline.

While media attention has focused on panic buying in supermarkets, the biggest percentage increase in sales during March was at local convenience stores. Revolut said Nisa, McColls and Costcutter “each saw an increase in the number of transactions larger than any of the UK’s major supermarkets”.

At Nisa, sales values were up 52%, as people bought more locally, although the number of transactions were up only 15%, indicating that on each trip Revolut’s consumers purchased more than usual.

Transaction volumes at Argos and Amazon rose by 20% in March among Revolut’s customers. But overall, total UK online spending was down 12% on the month, the lender said.

“While this isn’t as drastic as the drop in physical transactions, it indicates that in general people are spending less online, perhaps due to an increase in delivery times for non-essential goods,” Revolut said. “Consumers may also be limiting their spending due to fear of furlough, redundancy or salary reductions.”

The figures also show a sharp decline in cash payments. Revolut said ATM withdrawals by its customers plunged by 83% last month.

This post has originally been featured in Guardian.