Covid-19: Mix of online and in-store key to retail’s recovery

Three quarters of retailers believe that merging of online shopping and in-store experiences will be key to the sector’s recovery. This is according to a study by Brightpearl analysing retailers’ sentiments as stores reopen this week in England, which suggests the high street will become smaller as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a survey of 2,000 retailers using the Brightpearl platform, 34% plan to switch their focus to online post-lockdown, and 70% believe it is ‘highly likely’ there will be a reduction in high street stores following the crisis.

Additionally, three quarters of high street retailers stated that new safety precautions and social distancing measures will have a severe impact on their ability to trade, with 30% only accepting contactless payment and appointment-style bookings. Other safety measures being brought in include limits of customer capacity (70%), the introduction of protective screens (47%), hand gels being offered for customers (69%), and queue management policies (25%).

But a short-term boost to high street stores is expected following the green light being given for retail stores to reopen from 15 June by the UK government. Nearly a third (29%) think that post-lockdown sales will be bigger than traditional seasonal events such as Black Friday and Boxing Day, induced by discounts many retailers are planning to offer.

Nick Shaw, a chief spokesperson for Brightpearl, said: “The pandemic looks set to impose permanent lasting change on retailers. While discounts may provide a short-term boost, the longer-term trend will see fewer stores and more eCommerce as brands make online their primary focus and start introducing new buying options that work for shopper’s post-lockdown.

“Let’s be clear – we’re entering a new era for retail and those best set to capitalise will have agile eCommerce operations and the underlying technologies in place that support blended experiences like click & collect, which has always been popular but is likely to see a rapid spike in adoption as the restrictions ease.”