Retailers have struggled to survive during the lockdown, with some businesses being forced to go into administration due to a “lost season” in the fashion world as shops remain closed. However, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen from June 15 as the lockdown eases – though things won’t be quite what they were before the coronavirus hit. In fact, one retail expert has predicted the permanent changes that shoppers may see on their next trip to the high street.
Customers are already getting used to shopping in a new way due to the coronavirus pandemic, following the changes that have been made at Britain’s supermarkets.
Staff wearing PPE as well as the recommendation for the public to wear face coverings when going to busy indoor places has already become a regular feature of the shopping experience.
Perspex screens are also commonplace at checkouts now, with retailers including cafes, supermarkets and homeware stores all installing them to protect their staff.
However, as the fashion industry makes its comeback to the high street, one expert has revealed how clothes shopping could dramatically change for good.
Lee Lucas, principal and CEO of the Fashion Retail Academy, one of the UK’s leading fashion schools, commented: “The retail experience will be very different for consumers once shops reopen but customers have become used to the sight of screens at tills, queues at shop entrances and staff wearing PPE during their visits to the supermarket. None of this is going to surprise them.
“The most noticeable differences will include new ways of walking around the shop floor to enable social distancing, and potentially fewer items on display so rails are more spread out.”
But as dressing rooms remain closed, Lucas thinks that mannequins may be more necessary than ever – and not just to give an idea of how the clothes fit.
“Creative retailers could make good use of more of their mannequins to act as barriers to aid social distancing, and this would have the added advantage of demonstrating what more of the clothes look like when worn,” he added.
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The principal also predicted that there would be huge changes to the way shoppers pay – with clothes shops mimicking the way supermarkets have been operating over the last few years.
“We may also see greater introduction of self-service tills in clothing shops,” Lucas commented. “These were already beginning to spring up in some large retail chains but they could quickly become a more common sight.”
The move to self-scanning checkouts would reduce the risk to staff and aid social distancing – although strict hygiene would be required to keep touchscreens free of the virus during the pandemic.
Many retailers have already announced that they will be encouraging contactless payments when they reopen later this month.
The contactless card and smartphone payment limit has recently been increased to £45 so that more purchases can be made without any need to exchange cash or type into the pin pad.
However, Lee said that customers may not even be paying in the store as the pandemic continues.
The expert predicted that demand for online services will be higher than ever as shoppers stay cautious about mixing with other households indoors.
“The biggest change may be the growth in click and collect services. This could be an important way for retailers to entice shoppers back into stores initially, so they can see how social distancing measures are working, without having to spend too much time there on a first visit,” explained Lee.
“Fast fashion retailers may find it hardest when shops reopen because they rely on mass purchasing of low-cost clothing,” Lee explained.
“Social distancing measures will likely limit the number of customers who can visit, and queues may deter some shoppers. Reducing the number of items on the shop floor may also put a squeeze on their ability to make the profits they used to generate pre-coronavirus.”
It explains why retailers such as Primark have already announced that there will be no special discounts in store when they reopen, as they try to claw back the profits that they’ve missed out on during the closures.
However, experts have suggested that big sales could still be on the cards as retailers look to get rid of excess stock – while some brands have already said they plan to “hibernate” the stock until the 2021 season.