As non-essential shops in the UK reopen, it’s fascinating to see what the new normal on our high street and in our stores looks like. We’ve relied on the online space for the last few months, so what are our attitudes now? Will we be returning to the shops as normal to browse the rails and shelves, or will we stick to online orders from the safety of our sofas?
There’s been no end of news stories for years that physical retail and the high street is suffering at the hands of online. Stores that we’ve known of for years have been slowly going into administration and disappearing from our city centres and retail parks. With this in mind plus the shut down of all physical retail stores on the high street, what does the future look like for retail?
Love it or leave it?
It has to be said that there’s something about going on a shopping trip that you’ll never be able to replicate online. Grabbing a few friends, browsing the shops, getting a coffee and enabling each other’s purchases can’t quite be beaten. There’s a social element to shopping that we love.
Plus, retail stores are becoming more and more engaging. It’s not always just a case of walking around retail displays; innovative retail store design immerses you within a brand and it’s identity when shopping in-store. From the music and lighting, to videos being played in-store, to interactive pop-up shops; retail is often where a brand can really shine.
On the flipside, online shopping is convenient, open 24/7, flexible and during these times, much safer. You can browse product descriptions online, look up reviews and compare prices. Availability for stock may also be much higher. Some people just don’t enjoy the experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, but that didn’t stop the excitement when non-essential shops reopened after lockdown on June 15th.
The Covid-19 effect
We all saw the queues for Primark on the 15th of June on the news! Even though shopping online is more or less all we’ve been doing lately, people are still keen to return to the high street – so there must be something keeping us all coming back. The phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ springs to mind.
But taking the retail giants out of the equation, consumer drive to support local retail coupled with the pent up need to shop has really increased since Covid-19 which is likely to encourage many back onto the high street. With many retail business owners struggling to make ends meet with their doors closed for business, consumers feel compelled to do their bit to help and community-minded spirit is on the rise. This has included shopping at local fruit and vegetable stalls during lockdown instead of the supermarket, purchasing vouchers for local businesses and now that they’re open again, making a conscious decision to shop local instead of retail chains. It looks as if the pandemic has renewed an appreciation for our high street, which can only be a good thing.
But how long will this last? Retailers are going to need to provide shoppers with more reasons than ever to visit shops. Even though much of the public is keen to be back out there, many are staying put at home so retailers need to continue to make social safety a priority with limited numbers of people within the stores at any one time and heightened hygiene measures.
Alongside this, it’s time to really remind shoppers of the importance and joy of bricks-and-mortar retail. Many people will be looking forward to simply being around people, so customer service is vital right now. People have been shopping online with no interactions so the more we see happy shop employees making people feel welcome, the better the experience.
People certainly are excited to see the return of the high street and their freedom to shop. Perhaps physical return isn’t in as much trouble as we’re led to believe? Long may it continue as with physical retail and the high street, you get back what you put your money into. The more we spend and revive our bricks-and-mortar shops, the better they will be.