Darren Harsley, Brand Manager at GO!


It is quite well known that I am a bit of a geek.

Watching sport, films and documentaries in Ultra HD brings me great joy and I have also still got my old gaming consoles (My Sega Master System and Nintendo 64 still live under my bed much to my fiancée’s annoyance).

From changing and monitoring my fantasy football teams on my phone to relaxing with a game on either my PlayStation or Nintendo or streaming the newest Marvel series on Disney+, tech and electricals has played a prominent role in my life in the last 12 months.

As we have been restricted from enjoying certain parts of life during the pandemic, our spending on electrical, audio and visual goods has increased significantly and the retailers in this market have seen record sales.


Challengers and Disrupters making an impact

It is fantastic to see some of the challenger brands excelling and continuing to grow.

Richer Sounds who specialise in Hi-Fi’s, Home Cinemas and TVs posted an 8.7% increase in sales to £171.2m last year and have gained market share in the electrical sector from the likes of Argos.

Technoworld sold 72% more laptops from April to September than in the same period the previous year, as customers were required to work from home. It set up four new warehouses to cope with the rise in inventory and to help speed up logistics.

Buy It Direct’s turnover has grown to almost £300 million. The group sells products such as laptops, kitchen appliances and TVs through a network of websites including Laptops Direct and Appliances Direct. They also received further investment to support their long-term growth strategy with aspirations to reach their £1bn turnover target.


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Also, MPB who specialise in recirculating photography and video equipment have continued to grow. Targeting collectors, professionals, and hobbyists, they achieved sales of £44.2 million last year. They have achieved growth of almost 50% over the last 3 years and secured an extra £9 million from investors.


Adapting to the new normal

Amid the tightening of lockdown measures in the UK, January recorded the highest rate of online growth since the pandemic began at 74% year-on-year. Electrical online sales hit a record for the sector at +206%, mainly due to the increase in demand for tech to assist with remote working, video calling and home schooling, to improvements in home entertainment systems and increase in demand for the new gaming consoles.

AO.com (one of our brand partners at GO!) recorded a record surge in sales over the Christmas peak period, rising by 67.2% to £457 million.

Brands have also had to adapt significantly to the way in which we shop. Dixons Carphone (Currys PC World) pride themselves on their customer service and knowledge of their tech. ShopLive has been introduced to provide the personal element that has been lost with the pandemic.


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The change in circumstances has forced them to innovate in this way and give customers a new experience. The team delivering the ShopLive service has grown from 20 to 450 since its launch in April, with 2,300 staff trained to scale the service during busy trading periods. It is available to customers 24/7, rather than during normal shop opening times, which creates a unique retail experience.

As we slowly creep out of another lockdown and look forward to being able to socialise together and re-visit the bricks and mortar of retail, unfortunately our high streets are going to look very different.

The way we shop has changed forever and it is here to stay. Where the high street can adapt though is being able to provide a unique shopping experience. Maintaining brand recognition and customer loyalty will be key. Personally, I hope our high streets get the ‘normal’ level of footfall as soon as possible. They are a vital part of our communities. I am looking forward to seeing how brands react and combine the digital experience and the customer experience. It is a challenging time but an exciting and positive one.


Darren Harsley is Brand Manager for Grocer, Sports and more at GO! If you’d like to discuss your brand challenges or 2021 plans with Darren, you can reach him at [email protected], or get in touch with GO! here.