A major transformation to fight the effects of the pandemic

The retail trade is one of the Spanish economy’s main service sectors. An atomised sector, it is particularly labour-intensive with a widespread presence throughout the country.

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  • After the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, the sector as a whole has shown itself to be much more resilient than other services, posting a much smaller reduction in activity than the slump observed in the Spanish economy as a whole. Part of this commendable resilience comes from retail’s extraordinary ability to adapt to online sales channels, speeding up a trend that had already been taking hold for years and which we quantify in this report based on internal CaixaBank data.
  • Our analysis reveals, however, that performance has differed depending on the size of the business and the different branches that make up the sector. While food and electronics retailers have weathered the pandemic quite successfully, small shops, sales of textile goods and outlets located in shopping centres have faced a more complex situation. In addition, differences in the impact of COVID-19 have led to disparate performance across retail properties. Among other trends, the last article in this report looks at the dynamics of real estate investment in the sector, where large investments in supermarkets and the logistics channel are in sharp contrast to the more limited appeal of face-to-face retail stores.
  • In 2021, the outlook for retail is one of recovery thanks to progress in the vaccination campaign, which will enable a gradual but rapid lifting of restrictions in Q2 2021 on mobility, including international. In addition, the large amount of savings accumulated by households during the pandemic will play a key role in consumption’s recovery, as we expect part of these savings will be used to meet the pent-up and unmet demand generated by the restrictions enforced over the past year. Just as last year the fall in consumption was greater than the fall in GDP, this year we expect consumption to be one of the main drivers of the recovery.