One in five UK consumers will never return to the UK high street, research shows

Statistics released today from Swiss tech company meepl reveals that the already declining UK high street revenues could be on the backfoot before the doors even open on Monday with one in five UK consumers (20%) saying they will avoid clothes shopping altogether in the future, choosing to shop online instead. 

Whatsmore, the problem deepens further with the independent piece of research also indicating that two-thirds of UK consumers (67%) will only return to traditional bricks-and-mortar clothing stores if vast changes are made to the shop floor layout, hygiene precautions and so on. 

This confirms the physical shopping in-store experience needs to be urgently addressed and altered to increase consumer confidence or the UK high street could be in grave danger. It sparks the potentially devastating impact for the nation’s retail shops, department stores and shopping centers which will reopen next week (15 June, 2020) as part of the government’s three-stage plan to ease lockdown measures. 

Ferdinand Metzler, founder and CEO of meepl, the 3D smartphone-based body scanning clothes companion, says: “The retail and fashion industries have both been shaken up on a global scale because of Covid-19. Complying with measures to make your store ‘Covid-secure’ is not transformation, it’s a short term fix that won’t be enough to keep your customers happy and returning in the long term. Our survey results are an important indicator of where and how retailers need to start their transformation.”   

In the retail apparel industry, the dressing room is extremely important because shoppers who use them are almost seven times more likely to buy products compared to those who simply browse the sales floor. According to the meepl survey, more than half of participants (55%) believe there needs to be serious adaptions made specifically to the in-store fitting rooms before using them again. Changes could include: larger spacing, cleanliness, and limiting the number of people trying on clothes. 

Last month (May, 2020) was another tough month for retail as Coronavirus lockdown measures continued. Total UK sales fell by 5.9% compared with the previous year, dragged down by temporary shop closures, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said. Online sales of non-food goods jumped 60.2%, but failed to offset the drop in spending on the UK high street. 

According to the ONS, 39% of ‘textile, clothing and footwear stores’ reported zero turnover in April. Clothing giant Primark, for example, confessed to experiencing a loss of £650m per month with all stores closed and no online presence.

If retailers struggle to win customers’ confidence and this step in the shopping journey is missed, retailers are at risk of losing out on crucial revenue. By adopting an omnichannel mindset, retailers can not only maintain important interactions that boost buying signals, but at the same time, also answer customer demands for safe dressing room options.

“Ramping up an online presence, complimenting fast and efficient click and collect services, enabling greater sizing accuracy to reduce returns and harnessing innovative technology will all be integral to retailers’ strategies for survival. Our survey highlighted that over three quarters (78%) of UK consumers expressed an interest in using a Virtual Dressing Room as part of their future shopping experience, strongly suggesting they are ready and waiting for innovative ways to shop. 

“This will also help alleviate consumer hesitance towards in-store shopping, by building trust and confidence in the retailer, and combining technology with traditional shopping habits to create the shopping experience of the future. Taking an omnichannel approach that puts the customer first is at the heart of the solution,” concludes Metzler.