How has a global pandemic influenced the way we shop? Will online shopping replace the highstreet?
Browsing was one of Britain’s favourite past times. Shopping ‘without the current intent to buy’, we have all done it. Whether it’s to pass some time while you wait for your train or next class. Even just to get you out the house, browsing is always fun. It is a good way to see what’s ‘new in’ in your favourite stores and a great way to spot upcoming trends. Most of the time, browsing means that you are likely to end up buying something that you didn’t originally plan to buy, or buy extra little things alongside your purposeful purchase.
Consumer psychologist Peter Noel Murray explains that browsing can give a person a positive psychological boost. He states, “by sitting in a luxury car at the car dealership, we are vicariously experiencing the emotion of owning a luxury car, which means browsing in and of itself can be a rewarding experience”. There’s nothing better than browsing Gucci handbags and Louboutin shoes in Harvey Nichols and then strolling out without breaking the bank.
Shopping, pre-coronavirus of course, was seen as a day out. Even if you were just window shopping, it was nice to catch up with friends and socialise while you walk round the shops, maybe grabbing some lunch to rest your feet. It was an escape from the monotonous tasks of everyday life. This is all seen as a luxury now as the high street will sure enough open up again, but the question is, are we still going to browse?
With time, high streets are becoming more and more like ghost towns. Throughout lockdown, no non-essential shops can be open, which is the reason for them being so desolate. The risk is that they will continue this way after Covid-19. Mandatory masks, temperature checks and slimy hand sanitiser, while necessary, take the fun out of a shopping trip.
Although people will be ready and raring to get out the house after almost a year in and out of a national lockdown, shopping experiences are limited. You can’t grab lunch or have a coffee and a chat which makes shopping less of an aimless stroll around your favourite shops, browsing the rails. It makes it a quick in and out trip with social distancing, one-way systems and no touching products. Fitting rooms will be largely off limits so you can’t even try clothes on.
Retail environments, such as Primark and TK Maxx, rely on customers coming to the store to find the bargains. They count on physical footfall to keep the business running. Primark has little online presence and no e-commerce site to shop online. In some ways this is a positive because people are excited for it to reopen and therefore will be flocking to Primark in the thousands.
Lots of people are welcoming the transition to shopping online and are preferring it to high street shopping. While shopping online isn’t a social activity, and a lot of it takes place in bed, you can still browse products. Some might argue you can browse more extensively online. If you find a product on one site, you can put it into Google and find it on multiple other sites sometimes for cheaper prices. Alternatively, if something is out of stock on one site, it is much easier to purchase it from another site as opposed to trailing to different bricks-and-mortar shops to find what you are looking for. Online shopping is, effectively, more successful. Similarly, you can order a range of different things, from kitchen appliances to beauty products, all in the space of an hour without going anywhere.
The best thing about online shopping, other than it being from the comfort of your own home, is that it gets delivered to your door within a week, again without you having to move a muscle. In a recent UK survey, ‘2 in 5 people intend to carry on purchasing goods online rather than return to stores when they re-open’.
However, with a move towards online shopping due to the global pandemic, it means there have been many redundancies throughout the retail sector. Debenhams, a department store giant, was recently bought by Boohoo under the pretences that the physical stores would be closed, and it would solely be online. This hugely signifies a move towards e-commerce however with no promises that jobs would be available under the Boohoo umbrella, it has seen many job losses for Debenhams employees. Along the same lines, ASOS acquired the Acardia group, shops like Topshop and Miss Selfridge, but these too will be based on an online platform.
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