This scenario emerged in new research by Barclays Corporate Banking. Its data shows that consumers have returned to physical stores with confidence since Covid-19 restrictions began to ease.
- 68% say they have felt safe, or very safe, to return to the high street.
- 40% are planning on stepping up their in-store shopping over the coming year.
- And 41% say that it is their favourite way to shop.
"With the continuation of home working, this shows no sign of slowing down, and retailers are now looking at evaluating their store estates to meet local demand."
However, the benefits are most likely to be seen in local high streets rather than in big cities. A quarter of consumers now say that the best way a retailer can appeal to them is to open shops in their local area.
As a result, many retailers are reviewing their location strategies. Barclays' research reveals that 18% of retail businesses with 10 or more employees are eyeing community store openings, with each of them looking at five new premises on average.
There is therefore potential for up to 17,000 new local stores across the UK. Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale for Barclays Corporate Banking, said:
"Our report shows how innovative UK retail businesses are looking to build back better to meet the challenges of a reshaped and revitalised retail landscape.
"E-commerce has been the undisputed winner of the pandemic, but not far behind are community high streets - as shoppers seek to 'look local' and support the stores on their doorstep.
Other findings from the report show that:
- 29% of retailers are looking to entice more people back to physical stores by laying on experiences such as concerts and exhibitions.
- Since re-opening, over half of retailers are seeing an increase in the average spend of customers, with average purchases up 9% on pre-pandemic levels.
- The most in-demand items, according to 45% of retailers, are products that promote a healthy lifestyle. Younger people are more motivated by products of this type - 23% among 25-34s compared to just 13% of over-55s.
- 38% of retailers also report an increase in demand for sustainable products with a reduced environmental impact.
- 40% of retailers now employ data-led marketing to acquire more customers.
- Retailers are overwhelmingly optimistic about future growth, with 80% confident of growth over the next 12 months, including 41% who are very confident.
Karen Johnson concluded: "As our report shows, the contemporary customer expects retailers to serve their needs - for speed, convenience, locality and, increasingly among younger demographics, for a sustainable ethos.
"I am consistently impressed at how innovative, agile businesses are adapting their strategies to survive and thrive across the whole shopping journey."