Retail has suffered immensely since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus with brick-and-mortar stores taking the bulk of the hit. Nevertheless, due to the successful vaccine rollout, retailers had hoped for a ‘back to normal’ boxing day and prepared physical stores for a successful December.
However, the typical boxing day scene of long queues and shoppers camping outside could not be seen this year. In fact, Springboard reported boxing day footfall in central London to be down by 67% in comparison to 2019; and down 38% for Scottish high streets.
So, what caused British shoppers to desert high streets?
Of course, Covid-19 is not behind us yet; just as we were starting to live with it, the omicron variant threw us off course.
Since the omicron variant is more infectious and scientists are unsure about the vaccine’s effectiveness against it, shoppers were more cautious this year. For 32% of British shoppers, staying at home meant enjoying the festivities with friends and family. Thus, many shoppers opted to sacrifice shopping for quality time with loved ones.
A third of British consumers said they preferred online shopping on boxing day. This is because lockdowns forced consumers to shop online and many have now become comfortable with online shopping, enjoying the convenience, and often savings, it can offer.
According to Barclays, 40% of consumers go online to avoid queues and crowded areas. The credit card operator says, the end of year sales average spend of British consumers is expected to reach £247 which is £61 more than 2019.
Boxing day is one of the busiest days for retail. This year, however, it was disrupted by many predictable and unpredictable things.
The unpredictable British weather for a starter, which 27% of shoppers did not want to brave; the rail service disruptions, such as the CrossCountry strike; also, since Sundays are not the busiest days for retail, some retailers, including Marks and Spencer’s, John Lewis, and Next remained closed, deterring some shoppers from hitting the high street.
What can retailers do to encourage shoppers to visit physical stores?
Well, Jace Tyrrell, the CEO of New West End believes consumer priorities have shifted and what they’re now looking for from brick-and-mortar stores is experiences. It’s now “more about the experience than the offers”, according to him. So, providing an experience could increase footfall in physical stores and increase conversion, especially on a week where people are expecting to spend.