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As Stores Ready for Reopening, Many Shoppers May Opt to Stay Home

Though retailers across the country are beginning to reopen cautiously, shoppers are still harboring some anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus.

Sixty percent of shoppers say they’re comfortable getting back to the stores once they open, according to data from Intelligence Node, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. shoppers age 18 and older. However, 28 percent of shoppers aren’t keen on the idea of braving brick and mortar, and 13 percent remain unsure of how they’ll proceed.

Though the majority of consumers expressed confidence in returning to retail, just 44 percent said they would be back on opening day. Twenty percent of respondents said they would wait a month before heading back to the shops, while 16 percent would wait two months. Some shoppers were more even more unwilling to return right away, with 20 percent saying it would take them three months or more to feel at ease.

“It is only natural for consumers to be hesitant to shop in physical stores once restrictions lift,” Sanjeev Sularia, CEO of Intelligence Node, told Sourcing Journal. “Lockdowns have changed how consumers shop and engage with brands—these behaviors will only continue as stores re-open.”

Sularia said the ease and accessibility of online shopping during this period has served to accelerate its adoption. At 59 percent, more than half of consumers said they were still shopping online for clothing, shoes and accessories during the outbreak, and the vast majority of surveyed shoppers, at 80 percent, expressed their desire to continue to frequent e-commerce channels post-pandemic.

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Brick-and-mortar-only retailers lost a lot of market share to online competitors due to their lack of digital investments,” Sularia said. “In order to regain their footing and attain a competitive edge, brick-and-mortar retailers will need to introduce contactless technologies in their stores.”

Investments in mobile payment technology, for example, could augment a retailer’s efficiency while addressing consumers’ safety concerns. Forty-two percent of shoppers said implementing the solution would give them peace of mind.

Retailers will also need to be proactive in implementing and enforcing physical distancing protocols and providing sanitation tools.

Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said they want retailers to provide hand sanitizer to help them feel safe. Sixty-six percent requested mandatory face masks for all customers and employees, and an equal number said limiting the number of customers in a store at one time would increase their comfort.

Unfortunately for brick-and-mortar apparel retailers and boutiques, just 30 percent of shoppers said they would purchase more clothing and accessories in person once lockdown restrictions are lifted. That’s compared with 55 percent of shoppers who said they planned on purchasing more groceries in physical stores.

“The apparel shopper will continue to rely on e-commerce,” Sularia said. “We’re seeing more retailers adopt virtual fitting rooms to fill in the need of physically being present to try on clothes.”

Fortune will favor the retailers that have built up their online presence during this time. More than half (55 percent) of shoppers said they were happy to receive online marketing pushes, and 18 percent said they still want to hear from their favorite brands online.

Shoppers are also paying attention to the companies that are attempting to do good during this time. About half (52 percent) of survey respondents said they were paying attention to which brands were being proactive about helping out through the pandemic, with the intention of buying from them after the crisis abates. Twenty-eight percent said they expected their favorite brands to shift production to making masks and other personal protective equipment.

Still, the data shows that shoppers are not holding brands to an impossible standard. More than half (57 percent) of consumers said they expect their favorite e-commerce brands to operate as usual during the outbreak. But while one-third (33 percent) of shoppers said they had no plans to change their shopping habits, 48 percent said they plan to shift spending to small or local businesses in light of retail’s recent challenges.