Even in an era ruled by the internet, shoppers still love the high street for its convenience, the social aspect and the opportunity to find a bargain. However, it isn’t just the personal benefits of physical shopping that draw people to the high street, but the idea that these shopping habits can benefit others. We are seeing new shopping trends emerge in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on doing good and supporting businesses in the local community. This return to traditional retail values could be the perfect opportunity to revamp the high street and increase demand for physical stores.
Ethical retail therapy
Traditionally, retail therapy refers to the idea of shopping for the sake of comfort or feeling better. It has been found that shopping allows people to regain a sense of control over their environment and that the novelty of self re-invention and acquiring new belongings eases anxiety. In recent years, we have started to see a shift away from the ‘guilty pleasures’ style of shopping, typically involving fast fashion and reckless spending, and towards perhaps a more virtuous type of retail therapy. With ethical retail as one of the fastest-growing subsections of the market, it is no surprise that more and more consumers are replacing old shopping habits with zero-waste, plastic-free, vegan, fair-trade and second-hand alternatives. In 2010, ethical spending had an estimated worth of £46 billion, rising to £98 billion by 2019. People want to feel that they are doing good, whilst still benefitting from the control and novelty elements of shopping. Therefore, shoppers find comfort and satisfaction in supporting businesses that value charity, use sustainable materials, and sell good quality products that last longer.
The ‘shop local’ movement
On a similar note, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns encouraged people to want to support local and independent businesses, in the hope of helping them survive this period of financial uncertainty. Although it initially came from a place of necessity and convenience, with the disruption to supply chains making it more practical to buy produce from the local area, people began to love the feeling of community spirit that came with shopping at their local corner shop, farmer’s market or independent takeaway. Research conducted by ThoughtWorks suggests that this trend will survive long-term, given that only 32% of under 25-year-olds believed that traditional supermarkets will be the future of grocery shopping, with most favouring the comeback of local grocers.
With many having to resort to online shopping during lockdown, physical shopping as a leisure activity has almost become a novelty. More than ever, consumers are viewing physical shopping as an experience– a day-out, a social event, or a chance to grab a bite to eat in between errands. People enjoy the opportunity to physically browse potential purchases, and test out whether they can see themselves using the product. To take it even further, many brands are adding another level to their in-store experience. For example, Huda Beauty set up an immersive pop-up retail experience in Covent Garden during the 2019 Christmas period. The sci-fi themed decor and exterior, which were used to promote their Mercury Retrograde eye-shadow palette, also gave customers numerous photo opportunities, encouraging massive social media activity and engagement. Huda has gone on to be named the biggest beauty brand of 2021 by Women’s Wear Daily. Whilst e-commerce may win when it comes to ease, physical shopping will always have the upper hand when it comes to the experience.
In order to maintain and grow footfall, it is crucial to ensure that customers are gaining something extra from visiting the physical store than they would from visiting the same store online, whether that be a positive experience or a sense of altruism. Keep an eye out for an increase in experimental shopping experiences, including pop-up shops and in-store events.