Aiken PR

The Briefing

Covid & Consumer Sentiment

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by Aiken PR

09/11/2020

The commitment to staying connected has never been stronger

The pandemic has disrupted the routines of communities across the world and we’re seeing changed behaviours emerge as people navigate the new normal.  As we find ourselves in the midst of another period of tighter restrictions and a second lockdown, the consumer team at AIKEN share some insights into local consumer confidence, shopping habits and Christmas on the high street.

shopping belfast

Consumer sentiment

As our economy started to reopen in July after lockdown, consumer confidence levels increased slightly.  However, with the re–introduction of tighter restrictions and new local lockdowns, the coronavirus pandemic clearly continues to impact confidence levels, with the most recent reports showing that 33% of consumers believed their finances have deteriorated over the last year (1).

Brexit continues to be an area of key concern for people in Northern Ireland who have fears that the UK Government’s longer–term Brexit objectives are already adversely impacting them and that the status of the Brexit negotiations was the factor that had the largest negative impact on how they were feeling (1).

Taking into consideration Brexit uncertainty and coronavirus, over a quarter (26%) of people in Northern Ireland expect their finances to worsen over the next year, giving some indication of the longer–term impact the precariousness of 2020 will have (1).

Spending habits

It’s increasingly clear the pandemic has permanently changed consumer shopping habits. Even many of those loyal to the high street who previously only bought in–store, have now gone online, with Retail Week reporting an ‘online shopping surge’ resulting from the pandemic; over a quarter of UK adults (28%) say they’ve been spending more online, and a third (32%) say they intend to make more use of online shopping or delivery (2).

It will come as little surprise that people’s spending intentions are set to decline, with 48% of people expected to spend less on more expensive, ‘big ticket’ items in the next twelve months (1), either because they can’t spend on holidays for example, or there are fewer events to buy for due to fewer family gatherings and formal events. As we look ahead to the festive period, consumers are encouraged to buy and shop local in, perhaps, a different way to they have done before.

Both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent are currently running campaigns to encourage readers to shop local online, buying from local producers and creators.  The question is, will the range and speed of delivery of global retailers like Amazon and multi–national brands outweigh the draw and commitment to supporting local?

And what of the high street? Figures are grim and the challenge facing retailers has been recognised by the establishment of a new High Streets Taskforce by the Executive to ensure a co–ordinated approach to help address the issues affecting city and town centres as a result of the impact of COVID–19 and more importantly identify solutions.

Through social listening we know there is an energy and commitment from consumers to rally and support our local retailers with many consumers staying local and shopping and socialising in different ways. The immediate challenge is what can be done to encourage people into town centres in the absence of traditional draws such as Christmas light switch ons and continental markets?  As we focus on the weeks ahead we are in full support of Retails NI’s call to develop and implement the concept of ‘localism’ to repurpose town and city centres as unique hubs at the heart of communities and reignite the spirit that Northern Ireland is so famous for. We would encourage everyone to think before they click and as Retail NI’s Chief Executive Glyn Roberts puts it, we must hold on tightly to the fact that “while it will get worse before it gets better for our high streets, the important thing to remember is that it will get better and this is what government and business need to plan for.”

  1. Danske Bank – Northern Ireland Consumer Confidence Index 2020 Q3 – https://danskebank.co.uk/-/media/danske-bank/uk/business/economic-analysis/consumer-confidence/reports/danske-bank-northern-ireland-consumer-confidence-index-2020-q3_final.pdf?rev=fb3116cb226a479e95bf3361008bd9bd&hash=3502F8FFCDF536DC6B5DA33BDC122DC1
  2. Retail Week 2020 – https://www.retail-week.com/retail-voice/data-how-coronavirus-has-altered-shoppers-mindsets/7035211.article?authent=1