18 Jun.

Public health, economic effects and the impact on retail sector

Thursday, 01:00 p.m. | 35 min

Recent developments around COVID-19, specifically in relation to public health, the UK and global economy, and the impact and future of the retail sector. 

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Public health - Karen Taylor, director, Centre for Health Solutions, Deloitte UK

This week Karen Taylor began her discussion highlighting the way global hotspots for the outbreak of the virus, shifted over the course of the pandemic. Beginning in China, then shifting from Europe in March, to the US in mid- April, and now Latin America. She highlighted the latest figures in the UK (as of 17 June) which showed that the low daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths indicated that the level and impact of infections was now on a clear downward trajectory.

Karen also reflected on the increasing volumes of research now emerging. She highlighted preliminary research from the COVID-19 genomics UK consortium that has sequenced the genomes of some 16,500 patients, and in the UK, found that only 0.08% of cases originated from China, with the majority (77%) from France and Spain, likely from people returning from half-term holidays and attending sporting events.

She also shared the encouraging findings from another striking piece of research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which showed that not all parts of the UK have been hit hard by the virus. According to the ONS, there are 254 ‘middle super output areas’ (MSOAs) where there were no COVID-19 related deaths recorded from the beginning of March to the end of May.  Surprisingly, some of these areas included Leicester city centre and, despite London being hit hard by the virus, there are 10 MSOAs in London with no recorded deaths. Karen concluded by saying as we go forward we will see much more analysis and insight derived from the massive amounts of data collected by governments and research institutions over the course of the pandemic.

The UK and the global economy - Ian Stewart, partner and chief economist, Deloitte UK

Ian Stewart explored the outlook for jobs and incomes in the UK. The lagged effect of the sharp contraction in the economy in March/April, along with the winding down of the furlough scheme to protect jobs is likely to generate a significant rise in unemployment, later this year.

The UK has seen a marked fall in inflation, halving since the beginning of the year, with COVID-19 delivering a deflationary shock. Looking to the future, Ian noted we may see inflation turn negative later this year, as excess capacity and weakening demand weigh on prices.

Data from the ONS showed that average household spend is £173 less per week due to the effects of the lockdown – 20% less than it usually would be.

Almost two-thirds of webinar respondents polled believe that the economic recovery will take place in 2021. The webinar poll also showed that 33% of the audience believe that they will either return to office working in 2021 or not at all. Over recent weeks the proportion of audience members expecting a later return to office working has steadily risen.

The impact and challenges of COVID-19 on the retail sector and future trends - Ian Geddes, consulting partner, Deloitte UK

Ian Geddes discussed the impact and challenges of COVID-19 on the retail sector as well as its longer-term outlook.

Ian examined the perception of the retail industry during the pandemic. COVID-19 exacerbated challenges facing the industry and has thrust retail into the spotlight of national efforts, especially the sector’s swift response to the pandemic and the efforts of employees (for example, in the food industry) being particularly recognised.

Ian spoke about the sharp rise in online growth, summarised by the startling statistic that it took 27 years for on online grocery to reach 7% of the market, took 23 days to reach 10% and most recently has reached 13%.

Ian also outlined consumer behaviour trends, particularly embracing a slower pace of living and the need for trust and authenticity – consumers being more likely to purchase from brands that have responded ethically during the crisis. Another consumer behavioural trend on the rise is rising conscious consumption, with consumers being more careful and thoughtful about purchasing products that will last longer.  Some downward trends include avoiding crowds as more are concerned about virus transmission and consumer spending impacted by the challenging economic climate.

Ian concluded by considering the top priorities for retailers in the future. Some of these included an increasing need to prioritise digital and online experiences, sustainable and transparent supply chains, financial resilience as well as in data and security, rising safety and wellbeing measures and the future of work. 


Ian Geddes

Ian Geddes

NSE Consumer Lead Partner

Ian leads Deloitte’s Consumer practice across NSE. Prior to this, Ian led Deloitte’s Retail practice in the UK and has over 20 years’ experience in the sector working with many of the UK’s leading retailers. Ian works within Deloitte Digital, which helps clients with services from digital strategy through to implementation. Prior to joining Deloitte, Ian spent 10 years in the retail practice at Accenture, including five years as a Partner. He began his career at Marks and Spencer where he spent 11 years working in the buying and merchandising departments.

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart

Partner and Chief UK Economist

Ian Stewart is a Partner and Chief Economist at Deloitte where he advises Boards and companies on macroeconomics. Ian devised the Deloitte Survey of Chief Financial Officers and writes a popular weekly economics blog, the Monday Briefing. His previous roles include Chief Economist for Europe at Merrill Lynch, Head of Economics in the Conservative Research Department and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Ian was educated at the London School of Economics.

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor


Karen is the Research Director of the Centre for Health Solutions. She supports the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice by driving independent and objective business research and analysis into key industry challenges and associated solutions; generating evidence based insights and points of view on issues from pharmaceuticals and technology innovation to healthcare management and reform. Karen also produces a weekly blog on topical issues facing the healthcare and life science industries.

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Thursday, 18 Jun 2020 01:00 p.m.
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