Shoppers feel in-store Covid safety measures needed long-term

Retailers prepare for store re-openings next week

With the UK’s full reopening on 21st June hanging in the balance, UK shoppers feel safety measures in-store will still be needed in the long-term, regardless of the UK’s timelines for easing remaining covid-19 restrictions, the latest data from Sensormatic Solutions reveals.

Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers by Sensormatic in its latest report – ‘Europe –  Retail After Lockdown’ – revealed that over two thirds (67 per cent) felt that face coverings would be required in-store for some time to come, while a further two-thirds said the move to make masks mandatory had made them feel much safer when visiting shops.  Meanwhile, 42 per cent of UK consumer said they wanted retailers to install mask detection systems to ensure face coverings continue to be worn, while one in three (29 per cent) said customers’ temperatures should be taken before they were allowed inside the shop.

The long-term need for restrictions in-store was mirrored even more strongly across other European markets, further original research of 4,000 European shoppers in Sensormatic’s report also showed.

Despite COVID -19 restrictions easing at different rates across mainland Europe, with France recently exiting its third national lockdown and Italy’s regional system all entering lower ‘yellow’ levels in June, the mandate for long-term mask wearing in-store was resounding.  Shoppers in Spain (77 per cent), Italy (69 per cent), France (60 per cent) and Germany (56 per cent) all agreed face-coverings would be needed for years to come, while two thirds (64 per cent) of European shoppers said continuing to closely monitor shopper numbers allowed into store going forwards would improve their confidence in physical shopping.

Continued social distancing was also a key initiative UK shoppers said would make them feel more confident to shop in-store long-term; 44 per cent of customers said they want the number of shoppers allowed inside to continue to be closely monitored, based on the size of the shop, to allow social distancing to be maintained.  Throughout the pandemic, social distancing compliance in retail outlets has repeated topped shoppers’ concerns, with almost three quarters (73 per cent) worrying other shoppers weren’t keeping far enough apart.

And, after more than a year of restrictions, 55 per cent of UK shoppers remain cautious about shopping in-store – and this has been reflected in footfall numbers struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels in spite of the eased restrictions.

Based on its footfall index, which captures 40 billion shopper visits each year, Sensormatic’s data showed that despite a slow and steady recovery of shopper counts on the High Street in May – up +12.3 per cent percentage point improvement on April’s figures – footfall still remains almost a third (-27.7 per cent) down on pre-pandemic shopper traffic.

Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic Solutions Retail Consultant for EMEA, commented: “After more than a year of complying with social restrictions in some form or another, some of that behaviour has become ingrained in consumers’ psyches – and that might take some adjustment as we get ever closer to normal, irrespective of the timeframes for the UK’s final easing of restrictions.”

“But despite the cautiousness, shoppers have overwhelmingly welcomed back in-person shopping, and each month in 2021 we have seen a slow but steady recovery in the numbers of shoppers returning to the High Street.  This will be encouraging for retail businesses, who have made radical changes to their in-store operations to make them as safe as possible for their customers and colleagues, and fuel hopes for a sustained recovery,” he added.

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