Will customers return in-store when non-essential retail opens in April?

Non-essential retail is due to reopen across the UK next month (April 12th) and from June 21st, most COVID-19 restrictions are due to end. This gives retailers a small window of opportunity to invest in technology to support their estate in time for the predicted surge in demand.

It’s very clear that the pandemic has affected many businesses across many different industries, but what is also clear, is that online retailers, largely supermarkets et al. have profited greatly as physical stores have been closed.

The growing trend in online shopping has been experienced by us all, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. A survey conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, in collaboration with the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) and Inveon, shows that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10% across most product categories.

The survey entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”, examined how the pandemic has changed the way consumers use e-commerce and digital solutions. It covered Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK, during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

With more customers becoming accustomed to ordering online, will we expect to see a further decline in those looking to shop in-store from April onwards?

Well, it’s hard to speculate at this stage as we’re still currently in a lockdown, but even though we’re in a lockdown (in the UK), “Footfall around some of the UK’s retail sites increased by 7% last week, so with the data showing footfall increases already, this could be the indicator we need to envisage what could be a great return back to the high street, once people are free to shop again.

It was good to see a comment from Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "We welcome the additional clarity provided by the Prime Minister. While we are encouraged by a plan for non-essential stores to reopen, the heavy impact of the pandemic means some may never be able to. The cost of lost sales to non-food stores during lockdown is now over £22bn and counting. Every day that a shop remains closed increases the chances that it will never open again - costing jobs and damaging local communities.

"Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure. The government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so. Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from the Government. We welcome the PM’s call not to pull the rug out from under businesses. To this end, the Government must act on three vital issues – rents, rates and grants". (Fish I, 2021)

What can be expected from customers returning to the many in-store locations such as apparel retailers, restaurants, and pubs is that with so many restrictions over the last 12+months, many will go just to get out of their house!  

The good news for both retailers and consumers is that as of April 12th 2021, non-essential retail will be able to finally reopen again, as per the phased lockdown exit plans set out by the UK Government.  

We expect that the date in which retailers are really looking forward to is June. June 2021 in England is when Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said all COVID-19 restrictions are going to be lifted and most if not all restrictions can be removed from everyday life.

The good news also comes from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, where he said in his budget that the business rates holiday in England would be extended until the end of June for hard-hit retailers, hospitality, and leisure firms that operate premises on high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.

As with previous lockdowns, only essential retailers were allowed to keep their stores open for trade, and this included the likes of major supermarkets (ASDA, Morrison’s, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi et al.) although the definition of this varied in each country, at the very least this meant grocers and convenience stores could remain open.

It's projected that many of the UK’s population has had a really rough time with the latest lockdown (alongside the rest of the world) in that as soon as store locations, restaurants, pubs et al reopen, many will flood to this location, just to get out of their house!  

Many retailers will be looking to get customers back into stores ASAP as of April where it will be essential for them to get cash in the till. The losses of the last 12 months have had such an impact on revenues, getting vital cash back into the business is essential.

The parent company of Primark, Associated British Foods (AB Foods) said last month that the retailer had lost out on sales of £1.1 billion over the past six months. Nevertheless, AB Foods anticipates a strong boost once Primark stores reopen and pent-up demand is met – despite the further £480 million hit to sales it expects from March to August. (Jahshan, 2021)

Can retailers maximise the up and coming Easter holiday season? Many retail experts have said that with the Easter holidays in April, many retailers should take advantage of the opportunities that this holiday brings about, such as the Easter holiday with kids off school and parents off work, using this time to boost any potential revenue and shift any leftover inventory.

The good news is, there’s lots of retail technology that gives physical retailers a chance to become highly competitive. Technology such as click & collect, RFID, smart till etc. are all products and services that KFP can provide in order to get businesses ready to reopen.

Accelerate your digital options

For some companies, the rapid development of digital functionalities is key to ensuring continuity of services, and this is where KFP comes in. We can provide you with a solution that gives you optimal uptime, via LTE and 5G technology.  

Customers will be returning to your stores in April, at this stage, it's hard to know by what volume, but with this in mind, you will want to make sure you have the best technology available to ensure your customers have a truly exceptional customer experience.   

As a business, we have been supporting retail, hospitality, convenience, and grocery businesses for the last 20 years. KFP are the technology people that keep your stores trading, connected, and operational. Without us, 6 of the top 10 global brands wouldn’t be able to operate in-store.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your re-opening needs.

sales@kfpit.com | +44 (0) 1235 539101 | www.kfpit.com 

 

References

JAHSHAN, E.
Primark set for £1.1bn hit but expects big spending after lockdown (Jahshan, 2021)
Jahshan, E., 2021. Primark set for £1.1bn hit but expects big spending after lockdowns. Retailgazette.co.uk.

FISH, I.
Non-essential retail to reopen in April
(Fish I, 2021) Non-essential retail to reopen in April. [online] drapers.com