How do shoppers feel about shopping destinations re-opening?

On June 15th the doors of some of the nation’s biggest stores and shopping centres will creak open for the first time in months. As concerns grow that a shopper stampede may contribute to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Government remains confident that with new social distancing measures in place, a return en masse to the High Street and shopping malls is required to kickstart the economy.  

The Maybe* team is keen to gauge the intentions of the British public and so have surveyed would-be shoppers from each region to understand if and when they’ll return to the shops, and what their concerns are for when they do.

Here’s what we gleaned from this insight so far for the Midlands, we’ll update this with data from other regions across the UK as we countdown to re-opening.

Please help us build a picture of the future of retail by taking our short shopping survey.

Let’s quickly recap what measures will be in place on June 15th

This is not business as usual. The Government recently issued a raft of guidelines for retailers to follow to avoid the transmission of the virus. The impact of these on the shopping experience is likely to be considerable.  Before we jump into the survey results, here’s a quick round-up of the announced changes at some of the UK’s largest stores. 

Staff at John Lewis are installing social distancing measures in preparation for re-opening on June 15th. Credit bbc.co.uk.

Newly announced UK shopping measures

  • Limited shopper numbers - Expect to wait in queues outside because many stores will be limiting the number of entrances they have open and imposing a restriction on the number of customers entering at any one time.
  • No trying before buying - Not at John Lewis anyway. Their fitting rooms will remain closed for the foreseeable.
  • Getting around - the use of escalators and lifts may be restricted.
  • Perspex protective screens at checkouts will be in place at Boots, with counters and tills covered. Testers and face-to-face beauty consultations will operate via video.
  • Ikea will re-open with reduced hours and staff will patrol the aisles in Ikea and Boots to ensure that customers remain two metres apart.
  • Other steps that could be taken include  - virtual queuing, returns drop boxes, and enabling the collection of online orders from car parks. Click-and-collect only.

So, will the country be heading to the shops on June 15th?

Yes . . . and no! While 87% of people surveyed say they plan to return to High Street shops, it may be more of a trickle than a stampede. Of the respondents, 45% said they plan to shop less than they did pre-COVID-19, while 41% anticipate they will shop the same and 10% say they plan to shop more.

Graph showing how people expect to shop once COVID-19 restrictions are eased on June 15th.

The future remains uncertain for shopping centres

So while there’s some hope for the High Streets, it’s sadly a bleak picture for shopping centres with 56% of people planning to visit indoor shopping centres less than they did before and 46% planning to visit retail parks less than pre-lockdown.

People plan to visit shopping centres less post-lockdown.

So, will people just be shopping less?

It’s a mixed bag. What’s interesting to see is that while people plan to avoid indoor retail parks and centres, only 11% of those surveyed said they would be shopping more in outdoor centres or High Streets. It’s no surprise then that 30% of people surveyed plan to shop online more than they did pre-lockdown.

Graphs showing people intent to shop online post-lockdown restrictions being lifted for retail.

What can the stores do to entice more shoppers?

Unsurprisingly, people want to feel safe. Whether they walk tentatively into the stores or sprint through the gates on June 15th, shoppers want to see social distancing measures taken seriously. 43% of surveyed shoppers want to see social distancing measures in place while 32% feel that limiting the shopper numbers is the most important factor to getting them back through the doors.

Graph showing peoples’ intent to shop online post-lockdown restrictions being lifted for retail.

Key takeaway

What’s clear is that retail, in all its guises, has its work cut out to try and please everyone. Though 32% of people surveyed feel that shopper numbers should be limited, 63% of people flagged that long queues are their biggest barrier to shopping at all.  Also, it’s worth noting that clothing and electrical stores barely featured when we asked people what type of shops they had missed the most. Restaurants and cafes were top with 40% while for 25% of the respondents it was the salon they’d missed the most.

45% of people are nervous to shop when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

There’s a glimmer of light at the end of this virus-coated tunnel for retail but the question of when our High Streets, retail centres and stores will return to their pre-COVID glory remains to be seen. People are still scared and pretty sceptical about how well the recommended measures will be implemented and if enough is being done to keep them safe. Retail needs to respond quickly and clearly. Only through demonstrating their commitment to safeguarding shoppers will retailers likely see a surge in shoppers during June and even with the measures in place, many are likely to play it safe and shop online.

Please help us build a picture of the future of retail by taking our short shopping survey.

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