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Sep 2, 2020
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Global shoppers return to stores, but caution and 'mission shopping' are key

Published
Sep 2, 2020

Consumers around the world are returning to non-essential shopping, but many are spending less than they used to and their activity is now about ‘mission shopping’ rather than ‘retail therapy’.


Shoppers are returning to stores but at lower levels than previously



A new survey of 8,000+ consumers in the UK, US, China and France showed that 71% of global consumers now report feeling comfortable returning to physical stores since local lockdowns have eased, according to Mood Media and Censuswide.

But the report added that as many as 31% of consumers are spending less money and less time shopping in-store than they did before Covid-19. Meanwhile, 21% are spending the same amount of money but less time than before and only 3% are spending both more money and more time than pre-pandemic.

Scott Moore, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Mood Media, said: “Consumers’ retail habits are still evolving as businesses slowly begin to open again. They’ve become ‘mission shoppers’ focused on getting in and out as quickly as possible.”

The research found that despite 49% of global consumers believing they might catch Covid-19 in-store, 80% feel comfortable with retailer safety measures, with the requirement to wear masks being the most important measure for them.

This is particularly the case in the US where 60% of consumers are worried about picking up the virus in-store, compared to the French at the opposite end of the scale with only 39% worrying about that possibility.

And the older you are, the more concerns there seem to be. And in the ‘most worried’ market, the US, some 60% of shoppers have returned to non-essential stores, compared to only 51% of those in the 55+ age group. This age gap is demonstrated globally, but in the US specifically, the youngest shoppers also seem to be worried. In the 16-24 age group, only 54% have gone back into US stores compared to 74% elsewhere.

The research shows that those countries where lockdowns eased earlier, such as China and France, are seeing greater rates of return to non-essential shopping (81% and 77% respectively). Where some lockdowns are still in place, consumers are more cautious and only half of British consumers have returned to non-essential stores so far.

And of those global consumers not yet ready to head back into shops, female consumers express more apprehension than males (41% vs 34%).

Those who are holding back from shopping cited a variety of issues. Economic reasons resulting from the pandemic were named by 20% of consumers globally, with Millennials being hit the hardest (27%) followed by Gen Z (25%). France and the US (24% and 22% respectively) reported this “lack of means” reason the most out of the markets surveyed.

Other key factors cited among global respondents for why they haven’t returned to non-essential shopping included being “too nervous to visit” (38%), “doing all of my shopping online” (38%), and “someone does my shopping for me” (at 13%).

The big question, of course, is whether the new normal will ever resemble the old normal and consumers are split on this. Some 25.5% globally think it will happen by the end of this year and 25.4% see it as a longer-term thing, happening by the end of 2021.

That leaves a big chunk of people who don’t seem certain that normality will ever return, although only 10% think their shopping habits will definitely never go back to what they were pre-pandemic.

That said, consumers still long for the ability to touch, feel and try the product. This was cited as the top reason for consumers globally to choose to buy in physical stores instead of online (47%), followed by the convenience of taking the purchase home instantly (46.6%) and the ability to browse and discover new things (36%).

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