There is a huge desire to get back to the high street, according to a new survey by Gekko on consumer shopping intentions when lockdown ends.
70% of people are planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic when they reopen in April with only 2% of respondents saying they wouldn’t return to the high street. However, nearly half of shoppers want reduced store capacity to continue due to coronavirus still being in circulation.
Pent up demand
The research identifies a huge desire and pent up demand to return to the high street with key motivators being the ability to physically interact with products and have an enjoyable experience. When asked what makes people want to return to the high street, 62% said it was the ability to see, hold and try a product, 53% support the high street, while 52% miss the ability to browse. The same number, 52% reported the sheer enjoyment of shopping as a key factor in returning. In terms of shops, they were looking forward to visiting, nearly three quarters (73%) of people were looking forward to returning to a clothes stores, 38% to garden/DIY stores and 23% to technology stores. Men are 3 times more excited about visiting tech stores compared to women. Meanwhile, 24% of consumers are planning a shopping splurge when lockdown eases with 18-24 year olds the most likely to splash out (40%).
COVID safety measures
With COVID nerves still very much apparent, 86% of respondents don’t want shopping to return to exactly the way it was pre-pandemic. Nearly half of respondents (49%) want reduced store capacity to continue, which will be at odds with retailers’ desire to attract the masses back in-store. 61% want to keep hand sanitizer points and nearly a third (31%) want more click and collect. However, only 11% said they wanted limited contact with goods to stay, reinforcing the fact that people like to ‘try before you buy’. For the 30% of Brits planning to visit stores less, COVID safety concerns were the most cited reason.
Changed shopping habits
While online has benefited greatly from the pandemic, the research also identified that supporting local businesses is high on consumers’ priorities. Over a third (35%) of respondents revealed they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic. Over half (52%) of men and 49% of women have been more loyal to their local high street stores. Younger people are independent stores’ most supportive group online, with 47% of 18-24 year olds responding saying that they shopped with them. Interestingly 38% would use new online skills to research an item online and then buy it instore supporting people’s wishes to get back to the high street.
According to Daniel Todaro, managing director of Gekko: “With the light now appearing at the end of the tunnel, it is even more important to understand how consumer behaviour may have changed, what people are now used to, and what they are excited about when it comes to returning to physical retail. Encouragingly, our research shows despite some less than favourable predictions, the demand for physical retail remains strong. The research shows that absence makes the heart grow fonder with consumers missing the ability to see, hold and try products and the sheer enjoyment that sensory pleasure brings, with online unable to replace this experience. However, consumers remain cautious at this stage with a preference for measures to be in place. As the vaccine rollout continues and lockdown eases, retailers will hope these concerns will fade away.”