UK shoppers likely to stick to lockdown retail habits post-pandemic, research finds

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New research has highlighted how UK shopping habits are shifting compared to six weeks ago, at the height of the lockdown. In particular, the number of people who say they shop more often on Amazon has risen from 19% then to 27% now – and 17% say they plan to continue doing so after the lockdown, up from 12%.

In addition, six weeks ago 60% of UK shoppers also said they would maintain their changed shopping habits once the lockdown was over. As it begins to ease, that has risen to 71%.

At the same time, the survey suggests some people are already getting back to their old retail habits: six weeks ago, a third (33%) said they did less shopping of any type, but that has now dropped to a fifth (20%). Meanwhile, the number who said their shopping habits had changed because of the outbreak has fallen slightly, from 92% to 89%.

The tracker study of more than 2,000 UK consumers, commissioned by global e-commerce agency Melody, further revealed that people are shopping more online now than six weeks ago and are more likely to maintain those habits: 28% buy items online they would previously have bought on the high street (up from 25%), and 17% now plan to continue doing so once the lockdown is over (up from 12%).

The research also noted that, on average, UK adults predict it will take around three months for their spending in physical stores on the high street to return to normal (pre-lockdown) levels. Around a fifth say it will take them between one and three months and 11% say it will take between six months and a year.

However, even more (12%) think their high street spending might never return to pre-lockdown levels again – and 5% are sure that their high street spend will never return to normal.

The study also asked what safety measures UK shoppers want to see to make them comfortable going to non-essential retailers as they re-open: 61% want to see social distancing enforced in-store, 57% want to see a limited number of customers allowed in the store at any one time and 56% want to see hand sanitiser available to all customers.

In addition, a quarter (26%) want non-essential retailers to install air purifiers and 34% want more self-checkout options. However, one in eight shoppers (12%) say that no safety measures would be enough to make them comfortable to visit those retailers again.

Chris Cooper, planning director at Melody, comments: “The past six weeks have seen the UK’s adoption of e-commerce accelerating still further. As the lockdown eases, some shoppers are keen to get back to the high street but others are planning to retain the digital retail habits they’ve developed.

“That presents a real opportunity for brands to expand – or build – their online presence. Being a physical-only retailer is more challenging than ever, which is why so many retailers are looking to take an omnichannel approach.

“The re-opening of non-essential retailers this month will also show just how well the UK’s shopping habits have weathered the storm. It looks like it will take several months for spending to return to normal, and for some it may never do so.

“Furthermore, those retailers who want to attract shoppers back onto the high street now have to take a new wave of customer expectations into account. An immersive and engaging retail experience now has to be paired with social distancing and other safety measures. They need to learn from what’s worked for the supermarkets and other essential providers during the lockdown.”