IT is likely to be another few weeks before the majority of high street shops reopen – but what will shopping look like once lockdown ends?
While supermarkets and other key shops have remained open throughout the coronavirus, other “non-essential” retailers have closed.
When they are eventually allowed to reopen it is likely that they will still have to enforce restrictions.
But many other things about our shopping habits might have changed forever.
Keep your distance
Especially in the short term, retailers are likely to be keen to maintain social distancing measures to protect staff and customers.
So-called “sneeze screens” at till points will probably stay, and customers will be expected to follow floor markings and to stay apart in queues.
“Most of the big retailers will be desperate to reopen so they will have to come up with some way of spacing people out,” said Catherine Erdly, a retail consultant.
But she said that in the medium term, the measures could be even more drastic.
“I’d imagine that retailers are looking at ways of limiting high points of contact with staff and making more things self-service,” she said.
“This could include areas such as changing rooms, which might no longer be manned, and adding lots of extra self-service till points, even in non-grocery stores.”
Less cash, more card
Lots of retailers have already said that they would prefer customers to use cards in stores to reduce the amount of contact their employees have with shoppers.
Cash use was already on the decline before coronavirus; according to the Bank of England, debit cards overtook cash as the most popular way to pay in 2017.
And once people have begun a behaviour, habits form.
That means that even when lockdown ends, the use of cash may plummet even more quickly.
As people have been forced to stay at home, many have begun to rely on local businesses to cater for their needs.
And this could be something which continues.
If you have established a relationship with your local butcher, baker, greengrocer or off-licence during this time, you may well want to continue visiting them when it’s over.
As well as shopping more locally, thousands more people have turned to internet shopping.
Kyle Monk, head of retail insight and analytics at trade body the British Retail Consortium, said: “The current crisis has resulted in many people trying internet shopping for the first time, particularly among more vulnerable groups.
“It is quite likely that a proportion of these shoppers will not revert back to in-store for some time, if at all.”
He said the surge in online food delivery, in particular, could result in a permanent rise in the proportion who do food shopping online.
With people reluctant to touch knobs and door handles in public places for fear of catching coronavirus, hands-free door handles are being tested in a Finnish supermarket.
The handles enable people to open doors on supermarket fridges using their arms or elbows, limiting the spread of germs.
Other innovations to help limit human contact may also be introduced.
A number of the large supermarkets have already rolled out scan and go systems, where you can scan your products as you shop and then pay at a dedicated pay point at the end.
“The coronavirus crisis might have long term psychological effects on people’s willingness to touch things at all,” says Ms Erdly.
SHOPS ALLOWED TO STAY OPEN
ONLY a small group of retailers are allowed to stay open at the moment, they include:
- Takeaways and food deliveries
- Health shops
- Medical services – eg, dentists
- Pet shops
- Hardware stores
- Retail shops in hospitals
- Petrol stations
- Bicycle shops
- Laundrettes and dry cleaners
- Banks, building socities
- Short-term loan providers, credit unions and cash points
- Storage and distribtion centres
- Post Offices
- Car rental services and car parks near vital services such as supermarkets
- Public toilets
- Car garages and repair shops
- Food banks and shelters
Some retailers have already fully embraced the future – particularly in China.
Retail experts reckon the coronavirus will encourage brands to invest in their technology even more.
“In China they are already using facial recognition technology to pay for items,” Ms Erdly explains.
She also says some short term changes which retailers have made to help social distances could be here to stay.
“We could also see a rise in automated delivery robots and more automated processes in warehouses,” she added.
A report earlier this month found that half of retailers face administration by the end of the summer due to coronavirus lockdown.
Here are the retailers with the shortest and longest delivery times.
B&Q has announced it is reopening 155 stores today.
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