The decision to allow English retailers to keep trading, wherever they are in the new three-tier system of local lockdowns, is likely to mean lower footfall and tense shoppers, adding to to the pressure on retail and retail workers, a retail charity has warned.
The new system introduces three lockdown tiers, graded according to levels of infection. In areas that are tier one – or medium risk – pubs, bars and restaurants have to close at 10pm and only six people can meet up socially, both indoors and outdoors. In tier two – high risk – areas the rule of six only applies outside, while in tier three – very high risk – areas, households cannot mix and gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos must close. Shops, schools and universities, however, can remain open.
Chris Brook-Carter, of retailTrust, said it welcomed the news that retail could stay open despite the stricter lockdown measures in some parts of the country. “This decision is vital to help protect businesses, jobs, and the wellbeing of the 4.5m people working in the industry in the UK.”
But, he added: “We are concerned that the new lockdown restrictions will mean lower footfall and increased tension among shoppers, which will add to the already immense pressure eon retail and retail workers. Calls to retailTRUST’s helpline rose by 33% year-on-year from retail workers in the newly locked down areas and we are expecting a further surge in demand from an already pressurised workforce.
“The coronavirus pandemic has led to more than 13,000 store closures and the loss of 125,000 jobs this year alone, and retail workers continue to face terrible concerns around Covid-19, job losses and a proven increase in violent, verbal and racial threats and abuse from shoppers. Applications from people seeking mental health support from retailTRUST has risen by 164% this year, there has been a 50% increase in applications for financial aid and a 404% rise in the number of people looking for online support on our website.”
The comments come as research from Elavon Europe found that 47% of older shoppers – aged between 55 and 75 – are buying online more than they did before the lockdown period started. The study, carried out by Ipsos Mori and questioning 1,101 adults across the UK, found that more people of all age groups are doing more of their shopping from home. It also suggested that 68% now opt to pay using contactless card payments in-store.
Simon Tune, commercial director for Elavon Europe, said: “Recent trends in online consumer spending and digital payment preferences have accelerated due to Covid-19. Interestingly, we have seen a significant shift in the behaviour of older age groups. Online shopping became crucial when physical stores shut, but with social distancing ingrained and the potential for localised lockdowns, habits seem here to stay.
“It’s a good opportunity for businesses to step-up. The easier companies can make the shopping and payments experience for customers, the more likely they can maximise shopper loyalty and revenue potential.”