85% of retailers concerned over COVID-19 risk as stores re-open

As shoppers return to the High Street this week, 85 per cent of retailers have revealed concerns about the risk the Coronavirus poses to staff and customers.

A survey of 2,000 retailers for Brightpearl, an operations platform for retailers, found that the majority are rolling out measures to reduce risk of spreading the disease, including nearly three quarters (73 per cent) which will be placing limits on customer capacity.

A total of 69 per cent are planning to offer sanitising hand gels for customers, while 47 per cent will offer protective screens and 43 per cent will provide disposable gloves or socks, meaning shoppers should expect a number of differences to their shopping experience in ‘the new normal’.

When it came to payments, 30 per cent of retailers said they will only accept contactless, along with ‘appointment style’ bookings for browsing, while a quarter will be implementing queue management policies.

Toilet facilities will also be unavailable for 43 per cent of stores, with 17 per cent planning to bar shoppers from trying on clothes in changing rooms.

Respondents acknowledged that such safety and social distancing measures were likely to hit their stores’ profitability (75 per cent), while more than a third (34 per cent) said they were now planning to switch their focus to online retail.

Retailers also warned of a further decline in the number of stores, with 70 per cent stating it’s ‘highly likely’ there will be a reduction post-lockdown.

As a result, a quarter of retailers said they were planning to launch major in-store discounts to encourage shoppers to spend, with 29 per cent agreeing that post-lockdown sales are likely to dwarf traditional seasonal events like Black Friday and Boxing Day.

Three quarters of brands also said that a blend of online shopping and store experiences - such as Click and Collect - could be the key to success.

Nick Shaw, chief spokesperson for Brightpearl, said: “The pandemic looks set to impose permanent lasting change on retailers - while discounts may provide a short-term boost, the longer-term trend will see fewer stores and more e-commerce as brands make online their primary focus and start introducing new buying options that work for shopper’s post-lockdown.

“Let’s be clear - we’re entering a new era for retail and those best set to capitalise will have agile e-commerce operations and the underlying technologies in place that support blended experiences like Click and Collect, which has always been popular, but is likely to see a rapid spike in adoption as the restrictions ease.”

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