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Product Availability in the United Kingdom: What is In-Demand?

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With a new lockdown announced in the UK, consumers are once again being told to stay home, resulting in increased reliance on online shopping, as was seen in the first and second lockdowns.

Countries around the globe have been in and out of lockdowns throughout 2020 and into 2021. In response to this shifting landscape, Euromonitor International has been tracking changes in online pricing and product availability across 10 industries to see how online retailers have responded to peaks in demand in different countries.

Looking at the UK in particular, we can track how different product categories have been affected in terms of changing SKU availability and out-of-stock rates (OOS%) between 6th December 2020 and 6th January 2021.

Packaged food and alcoholic drinks popular for at-home consumption

As expected, long-life packaged food staples saw big changes in availability from early December in the UK. Noodles, dried pasta and shelf-stable fruit and vegetables saw the biggest decrease in SKUs available online. When looking at out-of-stock rates, however, the changes were less steep across the same categories, showing that retailers were removing SKU pages online rather than listing products as out of stock.

Packaged food staples SKU

With bars and restaurants running under restrictions in certain parts of the country in December, or shut completely in January, alcoholic drinks were also in high demand online as consumers shifted to drinking at home. Spirits, beer and wine saw big drops in the amount of SKUs available online, with beer being the most in demand with 42.9% fewer SKUs available online from December to January. Again, the biggest fluctuation is seen in available SKUs vs OOS%, with online SKU pages being removed rather than listed as out of stock, as retailers try to keep up with rapidly evolving demand.

Alcoholic drinks SKU

Stockpiling behaviour impacts toilet paper and home care products

Across tissue and hygiene categories, toilet paper was hit the hardest and this mirrors what happened across most of 2020. Between 6th December 2020 and 6th January 2021, toilet paper had a 59.8% decrease in the amount of SKUs available online.

Tissue and hygiene SKU

Home Tissue and hygiene SKU

Another impacted product category was hand dishwashing, which saw a 67.1% decrease in the amount of SKUs available online, the biggest decrease in SKU availability across all categories mentioned. With consumers cooking all their meals at home and working at home more frequently, the need for at-home cleaning products has skyrocketed, and hand dishwashing products were the most in demand in the UK during this period.

How we track SKU availability and OOS%

When tracking product availability, it is important to track both out of stock % and the number of available SKUs as they result in two very different shopping experiences. To deal with increased demand during the pandemic, some retailers removed SKU pages altogether instead of listing SKUs as out of stock. If out-of-stock rates are low, but the number of available SKUs is rapidly decreasing, it creates confusion for the shopper to see SKUs being removed without notification. On the other hand, if out-of-stock rates are high but the number of SKUs remains stable, then shoppers are more informed about the overall availability of products on a retailer’s website.

With Euromonitor International’s new global e-commerce product and price monitoring platform, Via, we were able to quickly and easily examine more than 20 million daily SKU observations across leading e-commerce retailers in 40 countries to track how the availability of selected categories and their pricing dynamics changed throughout the pandemic. Use our Coronavirus: Pricing and Availability Tracker to learn more.

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