The eCommerce winners and losers during lockdown

If you’ve been following retail news over the past few months, you’ll have definitely heard that online sales are spiking. And they are! Online retail is now around a third of all shopping in the UK, growth of nearly 50%. 

But it’s not as simple as that. While online shopping has surged overall, there’s also plenty of variation in the performance of different categories.

Pulling together the anonymised data from the Outfund platform and external research, we’ve drawn together the e-commerce winners and losers during lockdown.

The winners

Home and Garden

A combo of sunshine and enough time to finally sort out the garden have seen home and garden online sales nearly triple vs this time last year. Although they’ve dipped a little in the last month, they’re a clear e-commerce winner.

Groceries and food boxes

In times of trouble, staples and necessities are resilient. Especially during the first few months when shortages drove a lot of panic buying, groceries, meal delivery and food boxes have seen triple digit growth. Online grocery shopping is a major winner in Covid and having acquired a lot of new customers, we see that trend continuing on. Smaller indie brands in the food delivery space have also thrived and we’ve seen strong sales growth for both complete meals and ingredient box companies. 

Home fitness

With gyms closed and exercise a key excuse for being outdoors, it’s not surprising that home fitness equipment and apparel have been big beneficiaries. As well as weights, treadmills, jump-ropes, the humble bicycle has also seen a huge burst of demand. 


When regular stores were closed or emptied, marketplaces that provide a platform for independent and secondary swept up a lot of business. Amazon and eBay have obviously performed well, but smaller players like the UK’s OnBuy have also grown faster with customers turning to agile sellers to fill their orders. 


With pubs shut until very recently and a nation apparently thirsting after a stiff drink, online off-licences and craft drink delivery services have been booming. Naked Wines, saw a huge spike in registrations and online spirits retailers like the Whiskey Exchange saw surging sales. 

Toys and games

With children home from school, toys and games were also way up with a 341% rise in online sales during the lockdown period.

The losers


While online fashion retail has definitely weathered the storm better than offline, which has seen multiple closures, it’s still faced difficulty. What we’ve seen is that specialist fashion lines - casual wear, fitness apparel, loungewear - have performed well. But street fashion and other style driven brands have struggled to grow while people have been staying inside.

Beauty and jewellery

Similar dynamics to those in the fashion industry have impacted beauty and jewellery brands which are, after all, built around showing off your look. While some brands have capitalised on selling looks for Instagram, makeup brands in particular have suffered. Hair-care accessories and equipment, however, have performed better in the absence of salons. 

Luxury goods

Even outside of fashion, high end items and brands, like watches and expensive electronics, have had a tough pandemic. While the lockdown may not have impacted the actual ability to use the goods, the general economic anxiety naturally dampens demand for conspicuous, pricey goods. 

Online retail is still much better placed than traditional business during this crisis and success is often down to an individual business rather than the overall category. The car industry, for instance, has faced some serious turmoil. But the right online car platform can still seize a lot of share. If you’re in one of the ‘winners’, congratulations! And if you’re technically in a losing category, with enough savvy and investment, you can still outpace your category!

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