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Six British E-Tailers Form Their Own Trade Group

Six e-tailers in the U.K. have formed The UK Digital Business Association to promote and support British e-commerce.

Asos, Boohoo, Gymshark, Ocado, The Hut Group and AO World are banding together to raise their voice in Britain’s evolving e-commerce sector, UKDBA founder Iain McDonald told Retail Technology Innovation Hub. “With the face of e-commerce reshaped, UKDBA members will be crucial in driving the U.K.’s economic recovery from Covid-19 putting customers at the heart of their ambitions, whilst supporting the current government’s efforts to create a technology driven global facing economy,” he said.

Pure plays have been maligned in 2020 for their alleged contribution to the demise of many high-street brick-and-mortar businesses. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the U.K. saw retail brands such as Debenhams, TM Lewin, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, L.K. Bennett, and Topshop and Topman parent Arcadia Group fall into administration. And others, such as Frasers Group and The John Lewis Partnership, are trimming their store base and could close more doors to cut infrastructure costs.

But the new trade group is expected to have an active role in lobbying because they want a say in tax reform, as one criticism is that e-tailers haven’t been paying their fair share of taxes.

Online sales, much like everywhere else in the world, have seen significant growth as consumers migrated in force to e-commerce to do their shopping while shelter-in-place mandates shuttered stores. That shift to online is expected to continue even after the pandemic ends.

But while the growth of online is expected to contribute to job growth in the sector, those gains probably won’t offset the losses in physical retail. When fast-fashion e-tailer Boohoo acquired Debenhams’ assets and millennial-centric pure-play Asos brought Topshop parent Arcadia into its mix, about 25,000 jobs in aggregate were expected to be lost since neither one acquired any of the retailers’ store base. That translates to about 500 store closures that also drive job losses.

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Nonessential retailers were hard hit again amid rising infection rates from new Covid-19 variants. The U.K. fashion retail sector has been closed since Jan. 4. And while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday proposed April 12 as the date when apparel stores might reopen, depending on what the latest coronavirus data indicates.

U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week extended the country’s furlough scheme until the end of April, providing continued government support of an 80 percent contribution towards wages. Other conditions remain the same as set forth in November.