A survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on consumer retail habits has revealed that the UK’s shoppers are keen to return to the high street – but hold a cautious view with regards to full-scale reopening.

Velocity Worldwide has today released its findings from its recent UK Consumer Sentiment survey, designed to track end-user opinions and predict motivation around shoppers returning to physical retail environments when they reopen on 15 June.

The leading shopper engagement and technology agency revealed that over a third of the British public were looking forward to returning to a physical retail environment, and another 30% would begin shopping in-store again but with restrictions in place.

Responses highlighted the need for reports on live store queue times, the safety surrounding shopping, and understanding if the products consumers are looking for are available in advance of their shopping trip.

Particular emphasis was also put on more frequent sanitary cleaning (70%), hand sanitizer at entrances and exits (66%), and having staff assisting with social distancing (55%). Survey respondents indicated that these were the most important actions for shops and shopping centres to have in place to ensure customers return and feel safe.

60% of consumers also highlighted that they would be more likely to shop for fashion and fitness products in-store rather than online following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, in yet more positive news for British retailers.

There was, however, apprehension amongst some respondents, with 30% stating that they would feel anxious about returning to shops and would rather continuing purchasing goods online.

Velocity Worldwide CEO Enda McShane said:

“The next 12 months will call upon retailers and retail assets owners to re-think how they engage with and reward their loyal shoppers. The global pandemic has escalated a path that shoppers were already leaning towards, which is the desire for the intimacy of a physical shopping experience elevated by a strong supporting digital experience.”

Enda added: “Unless shopping centres scale up and strengthen their digital capabilities in the recovery phase of the crisis, they will struggle in the future. Consumers will continue to demand more in this space, and the retailers that will win will be the ones that listen and respond.”

The survey also found that community and togetherness, shopping locally and sustainability, and environment were now significantly more important to shoppers – a sentiment that high street and shopping centres should tap into with future marketing and communications initiatives.

There was also optimism surrounding the bounce-back of shopping centres, with 58% of respondents indicating that overall customer sentiment around these environments had not changed since lockdown was introduced.

Enda added: “This research is advising landlords and retailers that consumers will return – but this is conditional, on an experience that does not just reflect the safety and social distancing measures required, but also incorporates a more personalised shopping experience. If they do not get it from one retailer, they will spend their time and money where they can.”

The survey was issued to seven shopping centre databases to gather insights on the impact of the current pandemic on future shopping behaviours.

The results are based on 2098 respondents.


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