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UK shoppers keen to return in-store after pandemic year of shopping online: study

Shoppers appear keen to return in-store but still nervous about crowds. Image: Shutterstock

More than half of UK shoppers are keen to return in-store after a year in which, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns, they spent more time shopping online, new research suggests.

Customer relationship management platform HubSpot questioned more than 2,000 UK over-16s, via Censuswide, and found that 52% now want to shop in person again, compared to the 22% who want to buy online. 

One in five (21%) say they want to spend more this summer than before the pandemic, and, the study suggests that shoppers will spend an average of £157.37 on experiences that involve the human touch – adding up nationally to £10.2bn a month.

Almost half (46%) of UK consumers say they are now planning to spend more each month in order to see people face to face and make up for lost time, while almost a third (32%) say they will cut back on other things in order to enjoy the new freedoms of this summer – and 32% also say that they’ve saved money and now have more to spend. 

More than a quarter (28%) say they will be mostly spending that money shopping, while 33% will be spending the most on dining out, 20% on going to the seaside and 15% on sporting and music events. 

The study suggests that while most shoppers want to return to shops, 59% will be more cautious about physical touch and 49% will feel uncomfortable in groups of more than seven. Some 82% feel comfortable with one-to-one meetings, but 72% would be uncomfortable in a group of between 51 and 200, and 74% would avoid events with more than 1,000 attendees.  

That, suggests HubSpot, means that retailers need to focus on smaller and personal interaction.

Christian Kinnear, senior vice president and managing director, EMEA, at HubSpot, says: “It is clear that UK consumers are ready and raring to not only get back to normal life, but to make up for lost time with friends and family, getting away on holiday or engaging in some well earned retail therapy. 

“Key to this rebound will be ensuring consumers have the ability to engage with a retailer in a human way. While the pandemic forced everyone online, the re-opening will be about balancing digital services with the human touch we’ve all been craving. Retailers should not underestimate the value of their customer service teams and sales assistants in helping them make the most of the summer spending boom. Now is not the time to cut back on a businesses’ finest asset – its people.”

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