Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that non-essential retail stores will finally reopen their doors on Monday, together with hairdressers; nail salons; libraries; community centres; gyms; zoos; theme parks and pub gardens. It’s welcome news for the UK’s hard-pressed retailers, but the home delivery expert ParcelHero is warning that the lesson learned from the end of the first lockdown is that retail’s return could prove a damp squib.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘There is no doubt that many shoppers are eagerly awaiting the “Glorious Twelfth”, when we can finally return to clothing and department stores and get that much-needed haircut. However, at the end of England’s first lockdown last June, after initial queues outside stores such as Primark and Nike, many shoppers simply returned to buying online. That’s a pattern likely to be repeated this time around.
‘Next Monday, we’ll doubtless see substantial queues outside fashion stores and a scramble for the gym. It’s been nearly four months since we have been able to visit many of our High Street favourites. But what kind of town centres and malls will we be returning to? With the likes of Debenhams, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins remaining dark, and even a chunk of John Lewis stores gone forever, it won’t be the experience it was.
‘Even before the latest wave of store closures, things looked far from bright. The first lockdown ended in June 2020 and, after an initial burst of enthusiasm and early-morning queues to get into our favourite stores, things fizzled out after a few days.
‘Looking at the Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) retail sales figures for June 2020, as the first lockdown was lifted, the value of sales actually fell -3.2% against the previous year. Clearly, the massive, pent-up demand many High Street stores anticipated just wasn’t there.
‘Town centre stores that had banked on consumers ditching their newly acquired online habits were doomed to be disappointed back in June. Online sales did fall back slightly, taking 31.8% of all retail sales, compared to 33.3% the previous month when non-essential stores were still closed. That was a slight dip, but hardly a return to “normal”, given that online was only managing to take 20% of all sales before the first lockdown.
‘This time around, the end of lockdown could be even less spectacular. We won’t have June’s weather to tempt us out and our online shopping habits have become even more firmly entrenched. A record 36.1% of all retail sales are now happening online. That’s a 77.6% increase over February 2020. Shoppers of all ages have turned to e-commerce and now find it easier, more convenient and safer.
‘Make no mistake, we’re certain to see an uptick in High Street spending on the “Glorious 12th” but any retailer expecting a return to pre-Covid spending is in for a shock. ParcelHero’s latest research reveals 46.7% of shoppers say they will never return to their previous level of High Street spending.
‘Only retailers that embrace their website as their most important shop window and ensure their online service matches the standards of their in-store experience will survive.