Has lockdown changed our shopping habits for good?

Quick question. How often did you shop online (in retail), before the pandemic? I can predict your response depends on a few different factors. Whether it’s your age, favourite brand, frequency of shopping or free time, we all have different purchasing habits. If I asked you the question again now, I can imagine pretty much everybody’s response will have changed. Over the past six months, online shopping has changed from an option to a lifeline for most people. Yet, with the high street up and running over the last few months, and another potential lockdown looming, could this change how we perceive the high street for good?

Maria, 26, who works in eCommerce and lives in London, went shopping around Regent Street earlier this week. ‘This was the first time I’d properly gone shopping in-store since the start of the year. I tend to avoid the centre on weekends generally as there are more tourists, so relished a weekday off to visit the high street and hopefully spend money in physical stores, rather than just online.’ Shop windows were still attractive, but many were filled with promotional posters, tempting customers to come inside. When inside, whilst the shops were quieter, the experience didn’t seem too different – except for one thing. ‘At the moment, nearly every shop I went in wasn’t allowing people to try on clothes. This put me off, as it’s a risk to buy something which may not fit, then have to travel back in to return it. It can also be difficult to do so on weekdays, as shops now shut earlier.’ The one shop she could try on in, All Saints, ended with a purchase. 

In the eCommerce world, brands are realising that now, more than ever, is the time to invest in their ecom strategy. And, with many being available through concessions on sites such as ASOS, they need to drive the customer to their direct site in order to make the most money. The experience we’ve been through is a personal, human one, so many brands have ‘broken the fourth wall’, and created a more informal rapport with customers old and new. Social media has played a huge part in this, as companies have focused on increasing their following, and pushing promotions through that, alongside e-mail sends – creating that true 360 approach.

How can physical stores keep up with this? Sadly, not all of them have been able to. Oasis, Warehouse and Cath Kidston are now online only, and places like Debenhams have announced store closures which are to come. And, with today potentially promising store closures yet again, how can we keep those physical store sales ticking over? Ship from store is one technique. This allows online orders to be sent from physical stores, therefore counting as a sale from that shop, rather than from a warehouse. This is a temporary solution to the issue. When shops do re-open, click and collect could tempt people back in. Many of us are reluctant to spend too much on delivery costs, and click and collect is a cheaper alternative. Bringing a customer into store, you could then persuade them to spend more once there. 

How does the job market look? With the furlough scheme ending in October, Rishi Sunak has promised a new scheme, but there will still be more redundancies. Whilst the dreaded ‘R word’ is scary to us all, many companies are proposing another r word. Restructures. With this, more eCommerce jobs are being created, as brands reconsider their new strategy. For those looking for entry level fashion jobs, this could be a good thing, as the fresh young perspective is incremental to many high street brands. If you feel unsure about the new, digital world, there are many courses available. The Google Digital Marketing course has proved popular to many over the last six months, so there’s always time to brush up on your skills.

If you’re feeling unsure about how the job market is going to look, or what your next challenge may be, I’m available for confidential career chats about fashion jobs in Manchester and the surrounding areas, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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