The UK lockdown and aftermath of Covid-19 has had a considerable impact on our daily lives. One of the sectors most severely impacted by the virus and lockdown is retail. With the ongoing effects of quarantine and isolation measures still being felt, and with many non-essential shops until recently remaining closed, shops of all types have seen a massive fall in custom and revenue. Some are already bouncing back, while others are having to adapt and find new ways of trading to move forwards in the future of retail.
Highs and lows
The UK high street has faced challenging conditions for a number of years. The pandemic has certainly worsened the situation for many operators. There are various factors that influence people’s preferences as to where to spend their money. With the safety restrictions in place at the moment, a ‘retail experience’ on the high street looks quite different from what we were used to until so recently.
Perhaps the pandemic has hastened our move towards a cashless society, as many shops are only taking card payments as a safety measure. Rules imposed during lockdown have become natural behaviours surprisingly quickly.
Out of town
High streets and out-of-town outlets are two very different environments, offering very different shopping experiences. Many outlets have sought to recreate the appeal of the high street, by adding a mix of leisure and retail, such as cinemas, restaurants, and other options as well as shops.
There is also the appeal of free parking, which has always been a bone of contention between retailers in towns and cities and local councils. Why pay for parking when you can park closer to the shops at an outlet for free? When it comes to footfall, outlets certainly seem to be struggling less at the moment, and could well mean the future of retail.
A digital future
In 2014, 6% of goods were bought online globally, but by 2019, the figure had become 13%. This rise will be considerably higher now since the pandemic. The fact that so many shoppers have already moved online has been partly forced by circumstances. If you can’t leave your house, shops are shut and courier firms are still delivering packages, where else are you going to get produce from?
The swiftness of the lockdown compelled many buyers who had never even thought about internet shopping to take the plunge and try it. Many people were already working remotely, so would have the internet and broadband capacity to order online, if not the familiarity with the process. Groceries, for example, have been increasingly delivered by supermarkets, as shoppers have been reluctant to visit premises (with their queues and rules), or may be vulnerable or housebound customers and unable to visit stores easily. E-commerce is a growth sector in general, but if things stay as they are, it will only get bigger.
However, with some people still unwilling to travel on public transport, more localised shopping is also becoming more of a norm for us. Many shoppers have looked at their local area once more and decided to support their local outlets. If they’re working from home, or even if they’re not, their new local shopping experience has become part of their daily routine.
The logistics side of retail will probably not feel the impact of the pandemic to the same extent as physical stores. Stock will still need to be stored, warehouses will still be needed and deliveries – perhaps now direct to purchaser rather than a store – will still need to be made. What may decrease are expensive town centre premises and if shops are to survive this challenge, perhaps the smaller, local ones have the rosiest future.
Here at The Forshaw Group, we’ve had to introduce a raft of measures to ensure the safety of all our staff and customers, whether we are in the office or out on site. Whatever the future holds for retail, we cover all aspects of retail property restoration and damage recovery. If you have an emergency please do get in touch.