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Shoppers getting more comfortable about going into shops but seem less confident about spending; retailers among the most likely to receive coronavirus loans

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Six in 10 shoppers say they now feel comfortable buying groceries in store, new figures from the BRC and Opinium suggest, while four in 10 are happy to go to shops for goods other than food. Meanwhile, new analysis suggests that retailers are among the business sectors most likely to have taken on coronavirus business loans.

How shopper attitudes are changing post-coronavirus

Most shoppers (62%) now say they feel comfortable buying their groceries in a shop, although less than half (42%) are comfortable going to a non-food shop to buy. The survey, carried out by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Opinium between July 31 and August 4, represented an improvement from the previous week when 56% felt comfortable about buying groceries, and 38% about buying other products. This, says the BRC, may well be down to the introduction of compulsory face masks in store.

Looking ahead, 14% said they planned to visit shops to browse, up from 12% at the start of July. 

However, while 61% say they plan to spend the same amount over the coming month as they usually do, 24% say they will spend less than usual and 11% will spend more (and 4% preferred not to say). Asked about which categories they would spend less on, more than a third named fashion and/or clothing (37%), and more than a quarter small electronics (28%) and large electronics (27%), and health and beauty (27%) products. 

Just over half (51%) said they felt retailers were doing enough to protect the public from coronavirus, although 13% disagreed. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Spending intentions remain down among UK consumers, suggesting retailers will continue to face hard times in the months ahead. This was particularly true for clothing and fashion, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

“Nonetheless, the public continue to be reassured by the many safety measures that have been put in place by retailers, such as perspex screens, increased hand sanitiser and regular cleaning. Four times as many people believe retailers are doing enough to protect the public, as disagree, and this has been reflected in the rise in footfall.”

Coronavirus lending 

The British Business Bank says the retailers and wholesale businesses have taken on 16% of all loans issued so far by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). The sector is just behind construction, which has taken out 17% of loans. 

A third of loans have been taken out by businesses in London and the South East, followed by the East of England (11% of CBILS) and the North West (11% of BBLS loans).

Keith Morgan, chief executive of the British Business Bank, said: “A key objective for the British Business Bank is to identify and help reduce regional imbalances in access to finance for smaller businesses across the UK. It is welcome to see in the data that these schemes are helping businesses across the UK’s three devolved nations and nine English regions to access the finance they need to survive and stabilise, putting them in a better position to grow as we move into recovery.”

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