It seems like a lifetime since the High Street closed its doors for 3 months, yet the return of all our favourite retailers almost happened in seconds, as from the 15th June non-essential businesses have been able to open again.
Reminiscent of Boxing Day sales, on the morning of the 15th, there were long queues for shops such as Primark, (who famously don’t have an online presence), Sports Direct and Nike. Others had people queuing for long-awaited returns that needed to be made. Yet, as time has gone on and the novelty has worn off – are people still excited about the opportunity to visit their favourite stores?
In a world defined by the ‘New Normal’, one thing is clear – the shopping experience is not the same. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, the two-metre distancing rule, (soon to be 1+) must be kept up at all times. Similar to in supermarkets, shoppers must follow a one-way system, and the opportunity to try on potential purchases is not always an option. When it comes to members of staff, they will be wearing masks, and there will also be perspex screens at the till-points. All necessary adjustments, but do they make your local High Street seem more appealing? Probably not.
However, footfall is up from around 45-50% from the previous weeks, although this is understandably still a low of around 47% from this time last year. These numbers of course are just in England, as non-essential retailers have still not yet reopened in Wales and Scotland. But why isn’t everyone shopping? Maria, 26, who lives in London says, ‘As an avid shopper, I was initially excited to head back to my favourite stores. However, I live just over an hours walk from central London and, with no car, I don’t feel ready to travel on public transport yet. The images of a busy high street on the days shops reopened also put me off, I wouldn’t want to risk exposure to the virus when all the brands I love are available online – and most have free delivery.’
A lot of people feel the government is rushing to reopen everything, with the promise of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers being available from the 4th July – but is this necessary to help our economy? The sad fact of the matter is, as many graduates hope to start their careers in entry level fashion jobs, the opportunities just aren’t there. In an industry like fashion, which has been hard hit by a domino effect of disasters, seeing retailers like Cath Kidston and Quiz exiting the high street, an already competitive industry is now even more so.
Whilst it may be a long time, if ever, until the High Street returns to what it was, one thing that is surging is eCommerce. With all of us spending much more time in the comfort of our own home, we’re window shopping from our beds. As shops have also extended their returns period, the pressure of heading to the post office in time has also diminished, so there’s less of a worry of having to try things on. For those searching for their next career goal, consider eCommerce jobs in Manchester – some of the most popular brands in the UK are now based there. And I assure you, fashion graduates from Manchester in particular, the industry may seem tougher than ever right now, but you will find your role. Like for all of us, things may seem a little different right now, but you’ll get through it.
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