UK stores will soon reopen, but are customers hesitant to return?
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The re-opening of retailers across the UK will be a welcome sign for the economy, but shoppers may be hesitant to return.
From mid-June non-essential stores will reopen, but with online shopping booming during lockdown, and newly imposed health and safety regulations changing operations, some are questioning if shoppers will return as before.
Social distancing is impossible to implement
Concerns for health and wellbeing could see shoppers avoid busy centres and high streets, where social distancing rules will be difficult to implement. Many have returned to shopping locally, supporting local retailers and boutique owners instead of visiting the major chains, which are often busy.
The elderly and vulnerable may be a demographic that will avoid brick and mortar altogether, as fear of a second wave of infections could hit at any time.
In the UK, unemployment has skyrocketed since March, with many facing uncertain futures. Unnecessary spending is not an option for those who’s livelihoods are at risk.
After lockdown was eased in China, hesitant customers were coaxed back into stores by the Chinese government issuing vouchers to encourage spending. Many retailers offered “buy now, pay later” schemes, a means to alleviate immediate financial stress and ease payments for cash-strapped shoppers.
The managing director of Westfield’s UK shopping centres told the Today television programme they were well-placed to cope with the new regulations.
“Compared to a narrow pavement on a High Street, the sheer scale of our centres puts us in a great position to safely manage the customer journey through our malls,” Scott Parsons said.
“We’ve got digital football trackers so we can safely manage crowds as they enter and exit we can impose one way systems and markings on the pavements.”
Other measures imposed at the centres include car park controls and sanitisation stations. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said: “We know already from the way supermarkets and food stores have opened that it is possible to sell goods - and for people to get the goods that they need - and to do so while respecting social distancing.
“We need to ensure that the shopping habits of people might have grown used to in the pre-Covid days, are habits that we all exercise a degree of restraint on.” Mr Gove said this included things like touching and testing goods, trying on clothes and trying make-up.