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The changing face of retailing

In 2020, 46% of SMEs contemplated throwing in the towel. In July this year it was just 1%, and three-quarters are optimistic about the year ahead.

Naturally, further lockdowns and worries about Brexit are keeping them awake at night. While 49% of SME owners hope to keep their business on an even keel this year, 36% are planning for growth.

All this comes from surveys by personal guarantee insurance provider Purbeck who also discovered several positives from the pandemic:

New Natural Business spoke to three contrasting health food retailers about how their businesses have changed in the past 18 months and, more importantly, what further changes they are expecting to make from now on. On the following pages you can see how stores in London, Ireland and Scotland have reacted to the challenges of the pandemic and how they intend to ‘build back better’.

The vaccine programme is key not only to a consumer return to the high street but also in confidence to spend. Global analytics firm SAS says a fifth of consumers will increase their shopping spend when they see a successful vax roll-out.

However, some businesses could miss out on this increased expenditure. Around half (51%) of consumers claimed that they would ditch a brand after just one or two poor experiences. While four-fifths (82%) feel that the customer experience has improved since the pandemic started, one in two (53%) have nevertheless switched providers during the pandemic.

Low prices and special discounts are no longer the main driving force for consumers. In comparison to the previous consumer research SAS conducted in September 2020, price now has less sway over customers. The SAS research showed:

Shop local

A Barclaycard survey indicates fewer shoppers will visit large supermarkets as we emerge from the pandemic.

Over the last year, around two-thirds of consumers have shopped closer to home. More than nine in 10 people who were shopping locally during lockdowns said they will continue to do so.

Tom Cheesewright, a future trends consultant, said: “Echoes of this pandemic will be heard long after lockdown is lifted through a sustained shift in our buying behaviours. Changes we expected to happen over a decade have been condensed into a year.”

He said independent stores that are committed to meeting the needs of local communities should do well – as long as they invest in social media, websites and an outstanding shop experience to draw people from online shopping.

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