Two-fifths of Brits vow never to return to the high street

empty high streetFresh evidence of the threat Covid-19 is posing to the high street has emerged in a new report which claims that shopping online is the “new normal” for 64% of Brits – equivalent to tens of millions of consumers – while 42% have vowed never to return to physical stores.

So says a new study by Whistl, examining the impact of the Covid lockdown on online shopping behaviour. It shows that, in addition to the lack of shoppers who would typically be working in city and town centres, safety fears are a key driver of this change, with more than two-thirds (62%) of consumers believing it is now safer to shop online than on the high street.

However, those who are already out and about going to and from work appeared to be less concerned about the safety aspect.

In what Whistl brands “a worrying sign for retailers with only physical stores”, 42% of those surveyed said the move to shop online rather than on the high street is permanent. For retailers who target an 18 to 24 age demographic, the shift is more dramatic, with 55% claiming they will not return to physical stores.

As well as the safety fears, 55% of respondents felt shopping online was quicker and 52% believed that there was a greater choice for clothes in terms of colours and sizes. Interestingly, the inability to try on clothes in store was only mentioned by 2% of those surveyed.

Whistl director of marketing and communications Melanie Darvall said: “Our research is a wake-up call for retailers large and small who do not have an online presence. There is an unquestionable move away from the high street, particularly with those consumers aged between 18 and 24. It is unlikely they will be coming back to buy non-food items.

“A multichannel retail approach is the way forward for traditional high street-only retailers and it is simple and easy to implement.”

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