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UK Shoppers Itching to Freshen Post-Pandemic Wardrobes, Survey Says

While retailers across the globe scramble to keep operations afloat, consumers are just as eager to get back to shopping as shops are to resume business.

Sixty-four percent of shoppers say they’ll be ready to purchase new fashion items within a month of the coronavirus lockdown’s end, with another 24 percent expressing interest in buying within the following three months, according to a survey from Columbus Consulting conducted by SoundOut.

While 70 percent of shoppers admitted to tightening their purse strings amid the virus’ economic disruption, Columbus Consulting partner Charlotte Kula-Przezwanski said she was “quite surprised” to find that more than three-fifths of shoppers were already contemplating their next shopping excursion.

Despite being confined to their homes in the near-term, shoppers are likely getting antsy about returning to some semblance of their normal lives, she said. “There’s the thrill of not having been out shopping, and freshening up their wardrobes will be a treat,” she said.

U.K.’s high street retailers and others have undoubtedly suffered, she admitted, pointing to popular department store Debenhams, which officially filed for administration, equivalent to bankruptcy, in early April. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of surveyed shoppers said they wouldn’t purchase any fashion items while the pandemic rages on, and about half (49 percent) said they might—but the purchases will be few and far between.

Online has been a bright spot for U.K. retail, however. More than 70 percent of all consumers admitted to increased purchases via e-commerce channels, while 29 percent copped to significantly upping their online shopping game since the lockdown began.

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Kula-Przezwanski touted sites like Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing as winners with Gen Z and millennial shoppers ages 14-30.

“I think they’ve been really good at servicing the customer by offering quick delivery,” she said. “They’ve been very honest about the capabilities of delivery, and how safe they’ve been keeping their staff.”

Brands are also bombarding young shoppers—who are glued to their mobile devices—with unbeatable deals, she added.

With consumers relegated to their living rooms and home offices, comfortable, casual picks have resonated best, Kula-Przezwanski said. One-third of shoppers said casual wear would be their most likely purchase, while 19 percent said active wear was their shopping priority.

Consumers are also placing a much larger emphasis on quality than they did before the crisis, with 80 percent of shoppers saying the global health event has prompted them to consider and appreciate their purchases more than they did in the past.

That shift in attitudes could spell doom for fast fashion, as experts across the industry have predicted throughout the crisis. The majority of consumers (67 percent) have moved into a mindset of only purchasing what they need during this time of heightened anxiety, and are focusing less on fleeting desires.

The spread of the virus has also prompted a renewed antipathy toward China, the global supply chain leader.

Columbus Consulting’s data said 31 percent of shoppers intend to buy fewer or zero goods produced in the country after the health emergency subsides, while 69 percent said they would continue to buy China-made products. Bad feelings are more prevalent among older age groups, with 44 percent of consumers over 40 saying they would reduce or avoid purchases. Just 26 percent of those under the age of 25 said the same.

The wariness also extends to brands and retailers, Kula-Przezwanski said, and the crisis is prompting companies across Europe to rethink their supply chains.

“When this pandemic first happened, a lot of my customers were worried about getting their products out of China,” she said. Now, the virus’ spread worldwide has underscored the need for diversification across markets.

“I think it’s making people realize they’ve got to have a more flexible supply chain, and focus on shorter lead times, because they’re now looking at their assortment and what the consumer might actually want versus what buyers thought,” she said. “They’re going to need to manufacture nearer to the consumer’s desire,” she said—both in terms of timing and proximity.