After almost 18 months of lockdown restrictions, yesterday marked the so-called ‘freedom day’ in England. As the rest of the country is also gradually moving towards normality, I am sure I am not the only one to welcome this milestone with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am concerned to see cases rising and many people required to self-isolate, and on the other I am optimistic for the future following the remarkable global effort to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 and the successful UK roll out.
Of course, the pandemic is far from over and we all should be cautious as we go back to our normal lives. I echo the sentiment from those in positions of authority like the NHS; we should be respectful and considerate of other people and their personal choices when it comes to defining what our new normal will look like. We should continue to be kind to one another. As a country, we’ve all made incredible efforts and sacrifices to get here for ourselves and for each other, and now more than ever it’s important to act responsibly so that we don’t undo any of that good work.
It does feel like a watershed moment for society, to put to bed what’s happened in the past, and place our feet firmly forward. But it wouldn’t be right to miss an opportunity to take stock, and acknowledge all that has been achieved these past few months.
The easing of lockdown rules across the country is undoubtedly a testament to all the amazing work that the NHS has been doing relentlessly day in and day out. The progress on the vaccination campaign is impressive and it’s truly encouraging to see the UK continuing to benefit from this huge effort. At the same time, there are also a number of new technology driven services being rolled out at pace, including the NHS covid pass for attending events and travelling that I myself have used, which are proving to be effective tools at enabling a safe return to these activities.
As consumers are returning to shops, bars and restaurants, we’re seeing the economy finally getting back on its feet. In its May economic forecast, the Bank of England estimated the UK economy to bounce back at a faster pace than expected in February, with a growth of over 7% this year, while last week the ONS confirmed that in June 356,000 more people were in payroll employment compared to May. Our internal data also showed increased interest in office clothes, with sales for suits up 7.5% in the week leading up to ‘freedom day’ in England.
When I look back at Klarna’s role in all of this, I’m proud we were able to support both retailers and consumers in what’s been an unprecedented 18 months. Throughout the pandemic we’ve focused on building and offering products that can truly reflect how people live today, innovating to reflect the way that is changing. A stat that particularly stands out for me is the meteoric rise in e-commerce – which has step changed from 20% pre-pandemic to remain consistently above 30% now. To adapt to this growing consumer demand, in June we released our new Shopping App in the UK that allows consumers to use Klarna in any online store. And this was hotly followed in July by the announcement we had acquired HERO, a social shopping platform that will give consumers the best of in-store advice from the comforts of their own home.
Alongside these product developments, we launched two groundbreaking marketing campaigns – dispelling some of the myths around Klarna and highlighting Britain’s broken banking model costing consumers billions. Not content with this, we have increased our investment in the UK by expanding our London and Manchester offices, with plans to double our headcount over the coming year.
We now count over 14,000 retail partners, 15 million users and over 200 Klarnauts (our employees!) in the UK and we’re not stopping here. Stay tuned for the incredible things that we’ve planned for the next few months!
It is safe to say I am feeling cautiously optimistic about the road ahead and very grateful for the opportunity to get back to a bit of normal this summer – including a Marsh family getaway for a week in (hopefully) sunny Devon!