Worried post-lockdown consumers too scared to fashion shop, will stay online
We’re seeing an endless stream of surveys at the moment suggesting either that consumers aren't yet ready to return to physical store shopping or occasionally that they’re looking forward enthusiastically to being able to go to the shops again. But while many of these might seem contradictory, the general conclusion appears to be that it will take some time for shopping in physical spaces to pick up again and to hit what we might think of as a normal level.
A new study this week has veered towards the pessimistic end of the spectrum saying that 72% of consumers won't be returning to shops as soon as they open next week. OnBuy.com surveyed 1,673 people in England.
Of course, it's perfectly natural to expect some of the extreme caution being seen at present to fade over time. But how long do shoppers currently think it will take before they feel comfortable about going back to physical spaces? The survey reported 22% saying it will take up to a month, with 64% saying between one month and two months, and a sizeable minority (17%) think it will take three months or more.
In a blow to the fashion sector, a full three-quarters of respondents said fashion shops are the retailers they feel most uncomfortable visiting for now. Some 34% also feel uncomfortable visiting tailors, dress fitters and fashion designers.
And as many as 67% of consumers are uneasy at the prospect of returning to shopping centres in particular, compared to other locations such as high streets and retail parks. This is perhaps due to the fact that shopping centres are more likely to be enclosed spaces.
Those attitudes are possibly unsurprising given that 54% of shoppers are still opposed to the idea that non-essential stores will be able to open at all from Monday.
Clearly, this means we're going to see some major behavioural changes among shoppers and one important finding from the survey reinforces what has been said in other studies — 21% of respondents won't be 'popping to the shops’ as they did before the lockdown with 52% only doing so if they can't source what they need online.
With many reopening measures likely to discourage casual browsers, this stated unwillingness to simply pop down to the shops could mean a big gap in footfall figures both in the short term and beyond. This would be a major problem. Stores sell a huge amount to consumers who hadn't specifically planned a big shopping trip and didn't have any particular purchases in mind. With such consumers virtually factored out of the equation, revenues could fall significantly.
The big question is whether online operations will be able to pick up the slack and the opportunity is certainly there. Some 36% of respondents said they’d continue to use online shopping as their main port of call and 49% will consider online shopping, depending on what they need, before going to the shops.
Perhaps it's no surprise therefore that nearly half (49%) of UK consumers think retailers will struggle to keep their doors open post-pandemic.
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