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EDITORIAL How the Easter peak and the opening of shops will give an insight into post-pandemic retail

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Easter: set to be a new peak (Image: shutterstock)
Easter: set to be a new peak (Image: shutterstock)
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Easter will be a time to celebrate all those missed events from teh past year – it will also kick off the move back to the new normal of retail

There has been much talk in the past month of the pent-up demand for retail that will explode when the shops open on 12 April. However, research by Argos has identified another potential pent-up source of sales: making up for all the lost events, celebrations and festivities that have made the past 15 months even more dismal than just the threat of infection.

 

Its research shows that Easter is looking like a catalyst for releasing all the pent-up celebrations from the past year and, as a result, sales are already starting to peak. While Easter Eggs are seeing the usual rush, the need to celebrate a wealth of other things – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year, vaccination, weddings, bar mitzvahs and so on – is seeing all sorts of other goods flying off the shelves.

 

Six out of ten people said they’re celebrating more because the lockdown has given them a renewed appreciation of their family and friends, while 38% said having dates in the calendar gave them something to look forward to and kept them occupied.

 

In addition to going big on Easter, the nationwide poll showed that 41% are splashing out £100 or more on this year’s special occasions as a whole – with a majority saving up to re-celebrate a past occasion once restrictions allow for a larger event.

 

A massive 59% are planning a second birthday to make up for one lost due to lockdown, while almost half (49%) are set to join family and friends for a second Christmas in the summer months.

 

When asked why they’re saving up celebrations, 44% of UK shoppers said they wanted to involve more of their loved ones, 30% said they wanted to commemorate it properly, and a further 30% said virtual celebrations just weren’t the same.

 

The uptick in spend on occasions was seen most recently on Mother’s Day, with Argos’s online shoppers purchasing an average of two gifts, and is set to continue into the summer – so long as we remain out of lockdown.

 

This is all good news for retailers and it will be interesting to see how it plays out for them. While many people are looking forward to celebrating with friends and family, how many are going to be heading to stores to do the shopping for that? This period is going to be the real test of what has happened to retail across lockdown and what its future may look like.

 

It is likely that we shall see a slow return to stores by those that still want physical retail, but it will be tentative and won’t be a stampede.

 

Those that do want to head to the high street are also going to find things looking a bit different. Many shops have gone, those that are open will be exercising social distancing – which could well kill the atmosphere and the buzz that I suspect many ardent physical shoppers crave – and

 

And it could end at any point should the European third wave start to impact the UK.

 

There are also a whole cohort of shoppers who are either totally sold on the online way of doing things or for whom heading to the shops is still a risk too far. These shoppers will be doing their buying online.

 

What the ratio of these two groups will be – and indeed how that ratio may change as the situation vacillates between open and shut across the rest of the year – remains to be seen. Whatever it turns out to be, however, it will finally give us a better picture of what the post-pandemic retail world will look like.

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