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Shoppers set to carry on buying online– and to spend more on retail purchases: research

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Will shoppers continue to do as much of their shopping online now that shops are open as they have before? One study suggests the answer is yes. Meanwhile, the latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey suggests that shoppers are now spending more for the time of year than they have for months. 

Customer experience specialist MullenLowe Profero questioned 3,000 UK adults via Censuswide and found than more than half (56%) of online shoppers expect to buy online as much as they are now – and 41% say they have bought online more regularly during the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. One in three expects to go back to the way they shopped before the pandemic – but 71% of those who bought online for the first time now expects to continue to do so in future.

Looking at specific categories, 53% bought groceries online more often during the pandemic, with one in every five people who bought online doing so for the first time. Some 60% say they will continue to buy online more often than they did before. 

More than half (56%) say they have bought clothes online more often during the pandemic – 12% having bought fashion online for the first time.

Rowan Kisby, strategy director at MullenLowe Profero, says: “The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in all our behaviours, but perhaps none more so than in the field of ecommerce. The sector has seen five years of growth in just 12 months and the shift to online shopping is here to stay: 71% of UK online shoppers who shopped online for the first time during the pandemic will continue to shop online in the post-pandemic world. Convenience is critical to keep this new wave of online consumers that have been won over by the surprising ease of ecommerce, and will be essential to guarantee customer satisfaction. When thinking about convenience, we need to look at the experience as a whole, from ease of item discovery right through to the last mile.”

Meanwhile, the latest CBI Distributive Trades survey suggests shoppers are now buying more than they have since June 2018. The CBI survey does not look at how people spend but at how much they buy – and suggests that shoppers are spending more than they have for months. It suggests that sales in the year to April are good for the time of year for the first time since December 2020 by the 60 retailers that take part in the survey of 124 businesses. They are expected to remain good for the time of year for the year to May. The study also suggests they are at their highest since June 2018. 

The survey found that sales of hardware and DIY,  furniture and carpets were significantly above seasonal norms, as shoppers continued to improve their homes. Grocers and non-store retailers also reported that sales were good for the time of the year. That said, clothing and footwear store sales remained well below seasonal norms.

Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI, says: “Springtime has brought some relief to the retail sector, with non-essential stores in England and Wales re-opening earlier this month, and retailers in Scotland and Northern Ireland following suit in the final week of April.

“Despite progress along the roadmap, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions are still biting hard. The improvement in retail sales this month was driven by sectors that have performed relatively well during the pandemic, with little immediate rebound expected for more embattled sectors such as clothing, footwear and department stores.

“And retailers are still facing challenges around inventory management and their supply chains, amid trade disruption, big shifts in consumer behaviour and uncertainty over how long some degree of social distancing could remain in place.”

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