Shoppers vow to vote with their feet as retail reopens

Following non-essential retail reopening on 12 April, shoppers have vowed to vote with their feet and continue to support bricks-and-mortar retailers on the High Street, the latest data from Sensormatic Solutions reveals.

Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers by Sensormatic in its latest report – ‘UK Retail Beyond A Year Of Lockdowns’ – revealed that 71% of UK shoppers will make a conscious effort to support bricks-and-mortar now non-essential stores have reopened, with two thirds (66%) saying they had missed the High Street when shops were forced to close during lockdowns over the past year.

With many consumers facing months of isolation and limited contact with others, a further 67% said they had become much more grateful for human interaction when shopping in-store, while almost three quarters (74%) said that it would be liberating to be able to shop in person rather than from behind a screen, suggesting ‘screen fatigue’ had set-in.

Based on its footfall index, which captures 40 billion shopper visits each year, Sensormatic’s data showed that the High Street had consistently seen a marked bounce back when shops reopened following each UK lockdown.  Footfall bounced back almost 300% week-on-week on 12 April, the day retail reopened in England, and similar recoveries were seen after previous lockdowns; following the November 2020 lockdown, for example, shopper counts improved 193% week-on-week.

However, while there was a clear demand among shoppers to reinstate the physical buying experiences they had missed during lockdown, there remained concerns among consumers around bricks-and-mortar shopping, with over half (55%) remaining wary about safety in-store.

Social distancing remained the top concern, with 73% fearing other shoppers wouldn’t respect the 2m rule, while 59% worried about contracting the virus in a retail setting and a further 48% were concerned they might unwittingly pass covid-19 on to others whilst in-store.

When it came to making customers feel safer, better policing of social distancing came out top for 49% of UK shoppers, while 47% wanted more contactless experiences, such as self-check-out or ‘just walk out’ technologies, built into the in-store shopping experience.  Safety also proved a key consideration, with 44% of customers wanting the number of shoppers allowed inside more closely monitored, based on the size of the shop to allow social distancing to be maintained.  42% wanted a mask detection system to guarantee compliance around face coverings being worn, while 29% said temperatures should be taken on the door before allowing customers in the shop.

Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic’s Retail Consultant for EMEA, commented: “We have already started to see the green shoots of retail’s recovery beginning, fuelled by growing consumer confidence and the promise of greater freedom as society and the economy open up.  There is clearly a huge demand for real-life shopping experiences after months stuck shopping from behind their screens, causing many to rekindle their love of the High Street after it was closed for so long in the past year.”

“But, the real test will be ensuring that this isn’t simply a case of pent-up demand; after a year of yoyoing in and out of lockdown, retailers will be counting on the continued support of shoppers if any sort of bounce back can be sustained in the long-term.  And that requires re-evaluating the in-store experience so it’s both safe and engaging for the shopper,” he concluded.

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