// 17.2 million UK consumers expected to make permanent changes to their shopping habits
// Covid-19 pandemic forecast to generate an additional £4.5bn of UK online sales in 2020
// 69% of Brits don’t think the govt’s response to the crisis has been positive, driving risk-aversion towards physical retail
Covid-19 is expected to see one-quarter of the UK’s whole population make a permanent switch to online shopping as the pandemic accelerates the move from bricks to clicks, new research has shown.
A new report by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics, estimates that 17.2 million British consumers – about 25 per cent of the country’s total population of 66.6 million – plan to make permanent changes to the way they shop, as perceived risks of contracting Covid-19 at physical stores redirects spending into online channels.
Consumers who perceive the risk of Covid-19 to be very high are almost four times more likely to shift their shopping habits in the long-term.
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According to to the report, this group reflects those who have in the past been slow to adopt online banking and shopping, and they have now been forced to shop in new ways for essential items and do not intend to change these new habits.
The advent of the new group of online shoppers alongside “early adopters” means the proportion of online retail sales in the UK is estimated to increase by an additional £4.5 billion in 2020, the research suggested.
This comes despite consumers cutting back spending on all non-food purchases.
It’s expected that retailers will spend the next few months finding ways to leverage the shifts in behaviour to fill gaps in the market, repurpose stores to meet changed customer expectations and radically change their operating models.
Net balance of those that intend to either cut back or increase spending in the long-term:
Meanwhile, consumer confidence in the government and its response has been found to be critical in determining intended shopping behaviour.
The survey suggested that the majority (69 per cent) of UK consumers do not think the government’s response has been positive, while over half (55 per cent) believe the risk of the virus to be high or very high.
Meanwhile, social distancing measures place the quality of the traditional customer experience in jeopardy.
The survey showed that nearly half (48 per cent) of UK consumers plan to avoid busy destinations such as large shopping centres, suggesting scepticism in the ability of retailers to reimagine the customer journey.
The report said that revenue diverts online, retailers must look to tackle legacy cost bases, such as converting stores for online fulfilment, click-and-collect points and renegotiating rents to help adapt business models in a post-coronavirus climate.
“The way we shop has fundamentally changed and it is unclear how the dust will settle,” Alvaraz and Marsal head of restructuring Richard Fleming said.
“Retailers with large store footprints face onerous rental agreements and they are locked into a stalemate with landlords.
“The two parties need to start working more collaboratively to preserve mutual value.”