COVID-19 fears set to stop three-quarters of Brits returning to shop

Shoppers, some wearing a face mask, walk past recently reopened shops on Regent Street in London. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty)

Despite retail stores in England and Northern Ireland reopening their doors this week after 12 weeks of lockdown, COVID-19 safety concerns could stop the vast majority of Brits from hitting the shops.

A survey of over 2,000 UK adults by discount website VoucherCodes found a whopping three-quarters (76%) of the British public do not plan to visit physical stores due to health and safety fears in the wake of COVID-19.

More than one in 10 (11%) also said they will not set foot in a retail store under any circumstances, and a further 46% said they will only head to the shops if they absolutely have to.

Bits said their biggest worries are being in large crowds (33%), and being packed into queues with many other shoppers (31%). 

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With stores having closed their doors on 23 March, a over a third (36%) of Brits have turned to online shopping more than ever before during lockdown.

Surprised shoppers have discovered a new found love for ordering on the web, with shopping from the comfort of the sofa ranked as the best thing about switching to online shopping.

The other top benefits given by those surveyed include being able to take more time when browsing (27%), having access to a wider range of brands and products than shopping in physical stores (23%) and speedy checkouts (21%).

Separate research earlier this month suggests as many as one in 10 — almost 6 million — Brits may not return to in-store shopping until a vaccine that prevents infection from COVID-19 is found.

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Thrifty Brits also confessed they’d saved an average of £35 each by switching to shopping on the web during lockdown, with an overwhelming 83% admitting this is down to having more access to deals and discounts than when shopping in-store.

Of those surveyed, almost half (44%) said finding a good deal is important to them when shopping, and 11% even went as far as saying discounts are a deal-breaker when it comes to parting with their cash.

While this proves the UK is a nation of dealhunters, 44% of Brits admitted they find it difficult to find the best deals when shopping online.

Anita Naik, lifestyle editor at VoucherCodes, said: “After such an uncertain period of lockdown, it’s unsurprising to see that so many of us are apprehensive about returning to shops as soon as they open.

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“While not all of us are rushing to our local high street, it’s great to see that so many people have taken advantage of the many benefits of online shopping during lockdown, especially the savings that can be made.”