Empty street in London during COVID lockdown

The latest research* from U.K.-based delivery management company Whistl on the impact of COVID lockdown on online shopping behaviour has found that 64% of the U.K. population consider shopping online to be the new normal.

The figure rises to 70% for those at home during the day including working from home and on furlough.

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 62% of the U.K. believing it is 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 a worrying sign for retailers with only physical stores, 42% of those surveyed said that the move to shop online rather than on the high street is permanent.

For retailers who target an 18-24 age demographic the shift is more dramatic with a staggering 55% saying they will not return to the high street.

As well as the safety fears of shopping on the high street, 55% of respondents felt that 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.

“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 18-24.  It is unlikely they will be coming back to buy non-food items.”

Melanie Darvall, Director Marketing & Communications, Whistl

Darvall believes a multi-channel retail approach is the way forward for traditional high street only retailers.

The numbers speak for themselves and the shift in shopping behaviour is clearly being accelerated by the COVID pandemic, making an online strategy a must for those retailers that have been dragging their feet making the move.

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* The research from Whistl was undertaken with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.K. adults.

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