Maybe* shopping survey provides vital insight to independent retailers

This month the doors of some of the nation’s biggest stores and shopping centres creaked open for the first time since late March and with them 188,000 independent retailers, each frantically trying to introduce the necessary safety measures that, in theory, should result in shoppers flocking back through the doors.  But while a shopper stampede may be necessary to kickstart the economy and support the depleted revenue streams of the country’s indie retailers, the real question is, ‘if they open, will the shoppers come?’ 

To gauge the intentions of the British public, Maybe* has surveyed would-be shoppers from each region to understand if and when they’ll return to the shops, and what their concerns are when they do.  The survey will be updated fortnightly to help independent retailers monitor the developing public attitude.

Download the report: Retail 2020: What shoppers want now

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. 

Social distancing measures are being unveiled at independent stores across the UK this month. Credit

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 flocking back to the shops?

Yes . . . and no! The good news is that 90% of people surveyed say they plan to return to shops, but it may be more of a trickle than a stampede. The crucial stat for independent retailers to overcome is that of the respondents, 47% of people are nervous about shopping again. 

Of those surveyed, 45% said they plan to shop less than they did pre-COVID-19 and 3.5% saying they have no intention of returning to the High Street any time soon. That may seem daunting, but 43% of people are still planning to shop as they did before and 7.5% say they are planning to shop more. So, there’s hope!

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

Polly Barnfield OBE, the CEO of Maybe*, said:

"Britain’s retailers should feel confident that despite the on-going concerns surrounding COVID, the vast majority of shoppers are ready to get back to high streets and start spending again. Equally, retailers should be aware of what consumers expect from them to make their shopping experience as reassuring and as safe as possible.”

“Independent retailers do need to be aware of the digital gap that has opened up during lockdown. We track the amount of high street businesses that are active on social media in every UK high street and the shift in behaviour has been telling. 

“Since lock down the number of independent high street businesses active on social media has dropped to only 6 per cent, while during the same time consumers use of social media has increased by 40 per cent.”

What can the you 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. 52.4% of surveyed shoppers want to see social distancing measures in place while 21% feel that limiting the shopper numbers is the most important factor to getting them back through the doors. Meanwhile, 10% see hand sanitiser facilities as the most important. 

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

What’s clear is that all retail, from independents through to shopping centres, have their work cut out to try and please everyone. Though 21% of people surveyed feel that shopper numbers should be limited, 64.4% of people flagged that long queues are their biggest barrier to shopping at all. 23% of people are most concerned about social distancing measures being followed, while 7.5% are concerned about taking transport to the shops.

How can Independents encourage shoppers back in?

Indie store owners are encouraged to embrace Independents’ Day UK - a campaign that encourages shoppers across the UK to use small shops on 4 July each year. 

Howard Robinson, a spokesperson for the campaign, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of small retailers will re-open their doors just in time for this year’s Independents’ Day and we’re calling on shoppers to pledge at least one pound’s worth of shopping to an indie in the run-up to and on Saturday 4th July.

“Whether it’s a morning paper or a pint of milk – if all of us go out of our way to support our local shops, we can make a huge difference to a sector that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown. Independents bring colour, choice and character to our high streets, they provide jobs and invaluable services to communities – and now more than ever, it really is a case of use them, or lose them. We’re at a critical time.”

Key takeaway

There’s light at the end of this virus-coated tunnel for retail but the question of when stores will return to their pre-COVID glory remains to be seen. People are scared and pretty sceptical about how well the recommended measures will be implemented and if enough is being done to keep them safe. This is particularly true of large towns and cities where 54% of people surveyed said they would visit less often.

But of course, the data speaks for itself. To put the minds of your customers at rest, you need to be seen to be doing all you can to keep them safe when they shop with you, whether that’s social distancing signage, new sanitising facilities or new systems to reduce physical contact. But remember, it’s not enough to have these measures in place in store and hope your customers stumble upon them. Utilise your social media channels to share what you’re doing in store so your customers can feel confident about finally stepping out of their front doors and in through yours.

Read the full report Retail 2020: What Shoppers Want.

We will update this report regularly to help retailers gauge the mood of their customers and understand what measures need to be implemented to drive them back in-store.

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