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The Great Re-Opening Part 1: Retail

Posted by    |   July 8th, 2020   |   No Comments

At the beginning of lockdown, way back in mid-March, many of us held the belief that the crisis would pass before long and normal life would resume sooner rather than later. As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, thoughts of the ‘new normal’ set in and ‘living with COVID’ replaced ‘life after COVID’ in our minds. Working from home would be the rule rather than the exception, while online learning, online social gatherings, online exercise classes and online shopping replaced the same activities in physical premises

 

Gradually, as the weeks went on, the numbers improved making it safe to commence a reopening and at the same time sentiment changed as many of us longed to feel normal, even if the world around us is still anything but. Customer Perceptions surveyed 280 consumers on the re-opening, covering retail, hospitality and the beauty & haircare sectors. In the first instalment, we take a look at where people have been going out of the newly re-opened stores, their experience of the new retail environments and the impact on their shopping habits as we move forward.

 

Of the outlets that closed and re-opened, retailers were much less popular than food to go outlets for Day 1 visits as takeaways, coffee shops and drive-through food outlets topped the poll, with significant numbers visiting within the first week of reopening (takeaways – 43%, coffee shops – 27%, drive-throughs – 26%). Also popular were hardware stores (37%) and garden centres (31%). While clothes shops (26%) were perhaps lower than expected for visiting in the first week, it was notable that over two-thirds of respondents that hadn’t done so yet would go to a clothes shop soon.

 

Queuing to enter stores has probably been the biggest difference in the retail experience from the pre-COVID era. The queues of course were necessitated by the safety measures limiting the number of people inside stores and this was normalised early on in lockdown as supermarkets implemented these procedures. As we leave lockdown behind, there remains an acceptance and even a willingness of customers to queue as general retailers the days and weeks following them opening their doors again. When asked what impact this would have on their shopping behaviours, 83% indicated it would change their habits if remaining in place and 78% indicated they would shop in-store less frequently. However, of these, 53% said that while they wouldn’t shop in-store as often they expected that they would spend more money on each visit.

 

With limited number of customers being just one element of the suite of safety measures retailers have added, there may have been a concern that customers could be put off returning but 53% said they would be encouraged to return based on these measures being in place versus just 14% who said they would be discouraged. On the subject of face masks, 35% said these being mandatory in retail settings would make them more likely to visit shops, while 25% said it would make them less likely. 

 

Safety measures will continue to be important as long as we live with the threat of COVID but interestingly, only 52% said these measures were a more important factor than value for money (48%) in gaining their custom, a gap that has continually narrowed in recent weeks, suggesting retailers may need to put a greater emphasis on delivering on the old pillars of quality of service, product and value to retain customers. Our next blog looks at the hospitality sector’s own great re-opening.

By Ronan Cassidy

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