Fresh Business Thinking rounds up the biggest trends to emerge from the first half of 2021 and what to look out for in the next six months.


  • 7 of the 10 industries projected to grow fastest this year are heavily centred around online retail.
  • Concerns abound regarding keeping footfall in brick-and-mortar stores up. 
  • Job applications tumble quarter-on-quarter while vacancies continue to rise rapidly
  • Retail sector feeling worst effect of talent shortages

Sectors on the up

It’s predicted that the top growing industries this coming year will be Safety Equipment, Online Food Orders and Bicycle Retail as the repercussions of the pandemic continue to affect industry growth. 

Lockdown is over, but business decision-makers predict digital self-service and remote interactions are set to become the norm. Rising ecommerce figures back this up: online retail made up 14% of all global sales in 2019, and it’s set to account for 20% of sales this year. As the shift to online shopping continues, research by Addison Lee has uncovered some of the fastest growing sectors across the country predicted for 2021. 

Most of the fastest-growing industries were on an upward trajectory, but the pandemic accelerated demand across the board. The top predicted sector to grow this year is Safety Equipment & Supplies, with a predicted 78% growth this year; the need for PPE surged during the outbreak and continues to be highly sort after. 

The second predicted is Online Food Orders and Delivery with a growth of 45%; during lockdown, we saw demand rise for takeaways when restaurants and pubs closed, and loads of new competitors joined the sector as a result. 

Thirdly, Bicycle Retail is predicted to grow 43% this year as one million more cyclists hit the road in 2020 as people bought bikes to avoid using overcrowded public transport and get fitter too. 

The top 10 high performers set to grow revenue this year: 

  • Safety equipment & supplies - 78%  

  • Online food orders and delivery – 45%  

  • Bicycle retail – 43%  

  • Online alcohol - 42%  

  • Ecommerce - 40%  

  • Precious metals production – 40%  

  • Online greeting cards – 37%  

  • Video streaming – 33% 

  • Language learning software – 31%  

  • Online vitamins - 30%  


To adapt to challenges over the last two years, SMEs have made innovative and crucial changes to their service offerings. Last year, around 85,000 businesses launched ecommerce wings, and some of the biggest focus areas have been on optimising delivery strategies and retaining customers in an increasingly competitive landscape. Addison Lee offers next and same-day courier services everywhere in London and international courier services, for example.  

Startups like Getir, Zap and Gorillas jumped on the online supermarket delivery market, just as customers were getting tired of long wait times and high delivery charges from online giants like Ocado, Sainsbury’s and the like.  

Here are the most prominent ways SMEs have adapted: 

Switched to online video consultations or viewings 34% 
  • Started offering online bookings 


  • Started offering online events 


  • Implemented contactless payments 


  • Offered home delivery services 


Footfall down now that consumers are over the post-lockdown novelty

new report from the British Retail Consortium reveals that summer shoppers are hesitant to get back to the high street, with footfall levels 34% down compared with July 2019. Despite the initial bounce back for retail following the reopening of stores after lockdown, these figures show there’s still a long way to go on the road to recovery. Latest reports show that the largest cities are experiencing the biggest hits. Melissa Minkow, retail industry lead at CI&T explains that ultimately, too much damage was done to stores during lockdown to say which businesses will survive in a vaccinated world, especially with the new variant causing concerns.

“The retailers that are able to consistently maintain positive numbers will be those that are re-evaluating their brick-and-mortar presence, as we’ve started to see many do, while investing in omnichannel customer experiences.” she says. ”Shoppers’ behaviours have changed to reward the retailers who have made it most convenient, yet experiential, to make purchase decisions.”

Data on jobs reveals extent of talent shortages: vacancies climb but applicants tumble

Businesses in the UK are continuing to contend with huge talent shortfalls as the number of people applying for jobs keeps falling, while vacancies continue on an upward trajectory. That’s according to the latest real-time statistics from the world’s largest network of job boards, Broadbean Technology 

Applications continue to fall while vacancies rise 

According to Broadbean’s data, the number of applicants per vacancy (APV) across three key sectors tumbled between quarter one and quarter two 2021, while the number of vacancies increased. Across the manufacturing and production arena, vacancies rose by 32%, while the APV was down 46%. Meanwhile, the sectors experiencing the largest fall in applicant numbers were the logistics & supply chain and retail arena. The data reveals that the former saw vacancies rise 85%, while the AVP decreased by 60%, and the latter saw roles increase by 101% and applicant numbers dropped by 55% between quarter one and quarter two 2021.

“While we expect applicant numbers to pick up once again in September after the usual summer lull, the next few weeks will prove a testing time for the employment market, particular given the huge numbers of people isolating due to the ‘pingdemic’,” says Alex Fourlis, managing director at Broadbean Technology. 

Retail sector hit hardest

Broadbean’s data reveals that the retail arena has been the biggest casualty which, given widespread reports in recent weeks about employers struggling to source staff as they open up again is perhaps to be expected. And with the ‘pingdemic’ gaining pace and several firms reporting that entire stores are being forced to shut because of staff needing to isolate, vacancies will no doubt continue to rise which given low application numbers may prove detrimental to the sector’s recovery.