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When the shops are open again...

The retail sector has quite obviously been one of the hardest hit by the current crisis. Never before has an entire industry throughout the whole country (with the exception of food and medical supplies), had to totally shut its doors and cease doing any business at all. Within this context, real estate advisor Cushman & Wakefield has conducted a wide ranging survey with a representative sample of almost 2,200 respondents, into what shoppers expect to see when the shops are open again. A number of key findings emerge.

Firstly, and despite the growth of e-shopping both before and during the crisis, some 60% of those questioned say they are impatient to go back into physical stores and are not too apprehensive about the ongoing impact of covid 19. Nevertheless, 25% expect to increase their on-line shopping, which means physical stores will have to continue to provide new experiences.


Physical shopping will come with conditions, however. No less than 85% of respondents say they expect continuous and visible cleaning taking place in the stores. A similar number believe that hydro-alcoholic gel should be made available in-store. Limiting the number of persons in a store (likely to be a government requirement) is seen as less important, as is limiting the time spent in a shop.

The confinement-imposed increase in visits to local stores is set to continue. This trend had already begun before the crisis, but now is seen as a way of re-launching the local economy. Shopping centres, believes Cushman & Wakefield, will need to be inventive to retain all of their customers. And for all retailers, it is considered important by respondents that they understand their customers’ requirements.

What to buy

Finally, a word about what people will be spending their money on. Those responding – especially the 18-35 age group – are looking forward to getting back into cafes and restaurants (with social distancing in place). Similarly, a return to cinemas, fitness centres... is envisaged. And, a well-established trend, people wish to be able to undertake these activities while shopping.

In much the same domain, respondents say they will be spending more of their money on ‘doing things’ (sport, leisure, DIY, gardening...) and less on ‘owning things’ (fashion, shoes...).

The coronavirus crisis has clearly had a profound effect on the whole of society – not only has a whole sector been forced to cease operating, but the entire population has been forced to stay at home for weeks on end and do almost nothing. And nowhere do the two segments of society – business and private individuals – interact more than in the retail environment. So substantial change, as outlined by the Cushman & Wakefield survey, is perhaps unsurprising.
Tim Harrup

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