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High Street reopening: Boom or bust?

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Published on 09 June 2020

Return to the shops
Return to the shops

From Monday, June 15 non-essential shops across England will be allowed to reopen as restrictions are lifted.

Lockdown-weary customers desperate for retail therapy have already been forming huge queues at IKEA stores, while those missing their fast-food fix have been heading back to McDonald’s in their droves.

So, is this a sign of things to come? Will the High Street witness a much-needed financial boom come Monday?

University of Sunderland business and retail expert Professor Lawrence Bellamy fears the demand may not quite meet the expectation.

He said: “Shops are being challenged to operate in a safe way, with risk assessments trying to determine that staff and customers are at reduced risk from Covid 19.

“However, shoppers are not concerned only with the shop itself, after all supermarkets have been operating throughout the crisis, but also their journey to the shops, including the use of public transport, parking arrangements and circulation areas in city centres and shopping areas.

“Many retailers have seasonal stock which will now be discounted to make room for the new stock coming in and this could be a draw for some shoppers.

‘However, not all people will be rushing back to the shops.”

Professor Bellamy believes new retail habits formed during the lockdown may well be carried on despite the easing in restrictions, having a substantial knock-on effect.

He added: “Some groups, who are more vulnerable, may take time to feel confident in visiting again and others, in line with their new online habits, will have adopted new favourite retailers with which they will stick. So some habits may be changed permanently.”

The academic and business expert believes uncertainties surrounding job security for many people, along with the dark, looming cloud of a recession will have a significant impact on spending habits.

 

Professor Bellamy said: “A number of people will be cautious with their spending going forward. Shopping is also part of a greater experience for some, socialising with family and enjoying refreshments. So with the hospitality industry, including cafes so dependent upon footfall being part of the offer their absence will also make the experience and the encouragement to spend, all little less.

“Moving forward it is clear that for High Street retailers, many already under significant pressure, the difficult times are still very much with them.

“We have already lost some - and more will follow. This reopening will provide a little relief but the longer term prospects remain challenging and new models of operating for shops and centres need to be developed.”

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