intu has published a report reviewing the possible impact of Covid-19 on the way people will shop and spend their time once lockdown measures are lifted. The shopping centre group surveyed over 2,000 regular shopping centre visitors, with the help of psychologist Donna Dawson.
Whilst there is difficult road ahead, intu said that its research points to an eagerness amongst consumers and, crucially, a willingness to return to pre-lockdown habits, as soon as is feasible. The group said that consumers have questions around practicalities, but that the sentiment should be ultimately reassuring for retail and leisure brands.
The survey results found that the majority of people are eager to revert to the shopping and spending patterns they followed pre-lockdown, once the threat of coronavirus lifts. 81 per cent said that they would visit shopping centres with the same or more frequency than they did pre-coronavirus, as lockdown ends. Just 18 per cent said that they would do most of their shopping online.
In terms of spending habits, 63 per cent said that they intended to spend either the same or more as they did before coronavirus, post-lockdown. Within this, 45 per cent said that they anticipated no change at all in their spending habits, whilst 18 per cent said they would spend more, having not been able to for some time. 28 per cent said they would spend less.
In the report, psychologist Donna Daswon reasoned that people are creatures of habit and will naturally want to revert to old ways. There will be an initial mental hurdle to get over but once this has been navigated, people will likely very quickly want to re-establish past habits.
While most respondents said they were keen to revert to their pre-coronavirus shopping and spending habits, intu's research also found that there was a clear desire for reassurance and fairly stringent safety measures, as we continue to navigate the crisis.
Over 70 per cent of regular shopping centre visitors said that they would actively encourage compulsory hand sanitisation upon store/centre entry, protective screens at tills, limitations on the numbers able to enter stores at any one time, and 2m distance markers in-store.
Meanwhile, over 60 per cent would actively encourage a temperature scan upon store/centre entry, in-store security and CCTV/tech to control crowds, cashless stores, and would be happy with an average wait time of 10 mins for store entry, to allow for safety.
Dawson said consumers are looking for clear instructions and boundaries, given that the vague and often contradictory messaging around the virus to date. She advised a uniform approach across retail as far as possible, to avoid confusion, and a clear set of up to five or six rules for people to follow, so as not to overwhelm.
The survey also asked respondents about what activities they were most looking forward to returning to once lockdown lifts. The research found that while people are keen to socialise, but they are seeking spaces where contact can be carefully managed.
Eating out ranked as the activity that the activity that respondents were most looking forward to as lockdown lifts (47 per cent), followed by social activities with family and friends (42 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively), followed by a visit to a shopping centre (35 per cent). People were less eager to go to the theatre, visit museums and galleries, visit historic landmarks, go to concerts, visit the gym or go swimming (all of which scored less than 27 per cent).
Psychologist Donna Dawson said: “The key issue is that people want a sense of space. They want to be able to maintain their distance from others when desired. People also need to know that they can make a swift exit if they need to.”
Based on these findings, intu said leisure centres should think about increased exits, and exit signage, to provide reassurance, alongside other space management measures.
Finally, the report also tried to gauge the level of community spirit once lockdown is lifted. Dawson said that this sense of community and localism has been heightened by the pandemic, as consumers have come to rely on local stores and independent retailers during lockdown. She said that they feel a sense of loyalty as a result.
And the survey results reflected this, with support for local, independent brands and charities strong.
Around 70 per cent viewed increased support and space for local and independent retailers as necessary as we return to normality, and around 70 per cent felt the same about provision of infrastructure for charities in retail areas – such as donation drop-off points.