The turbulent future of the High Street is well documented. As Britain eases itself out of lockdown, the list of big names facing store closures or administration is growing: notable additions include John Lewis, Boots and TM Lewin.
According to a recent survey, the global Covid-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate the already ailing UK High Street. The Shirt Society, a menswear brand that offers its members monthly shirt drops on a subscription basis, surveyed its member base on their shopping habits before and after the lockdown.
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of customers described their shopping habits as a mix of online and physical store shopping. However, following the UK lockdown, 56% of surveyed members said they no longer intend to shop in physical stores, preferring online only shopping instead. More bad news for the High Street.
“We’ve seen a huge surge in interest in our service following the lockdown announcement in March,” says Matt Bird, founder of The Shirt Society. “With no choice but to shop online during the pandemic, many people who had always shopped in store were forced to try out online alternatives – and found it to be a lot easier, quicker and more convenient than they anticipated.”
“The Covid-19 situation has sped up a process that was already underway: people abandoning physical stores in favour of services they can access anywhere, at any time.”
The survey also revealed that shoppers are prioritising cost following the pandemic, with over 55% of responses indicating that price was the most important thing they consider when making a purchase. This suggests fears of the impact of the recession are dominating consumer shopping habits.
One customer commented: “Value for money will become even more important [post-Covid-19]. Am I getting the most value for every pound I spend?”
There is some good news for physical store owners, however. While The Shirt Society members recognised the ease and convenience of online shopping, many were keen to see the High Street survive alongside new technologies.
“There is a fun, social side to shopping – whether with a partner, family or friends,” added another respondent. “I believe people need that.”
That may be true, but the results of this survey suggest that physical stores may have an uphill battle on their hands if the high street as we know it is to survive.