Covid-19 restrictions in stores ‘puts most shoppers off’

Irish retailers urged to invest more in online offerings

Shoppers outside  Penneys on its reopening following closure due to Covid-19: 95 per cent of Irish consumers shop online at least some of the time.

Shoppers outside Penneys on its reopening following closure due to Covid-19: 95 per cent of Irish consumers shop online at least some of the time.

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Three-quarters of Irish consumers say Covid-19 restrictions in physical stores have negatively impacted their decision to shop in them, according to research published by the IE Domain Registry (IEDR).

Some 74 per cent of shoppers say they have been put off by the queues, capacity limits and social distancing requirements encountered during the pandemic.

But the report by IEDR and Digital Business Ireland found that if Covid-19 was brought under control and social distancing no longer required, 48 per cent of consumers would continue to do the bulk of their shopping in physical stores. Only 11 per cent would do most of their shopping online, while the remaining 41 per cent would opt for a combination of both.

The consumers who said they would mostly shop online cited safety and time efficiency as their reasons.

Shopping locally

Those who said they would prefer to shop mostly in-store cited convenience and a desire to go outside and be social.

The survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 retail and customer-facing professional services SMEs was carried out by Core Research.

Some 95 per cent of Irish consumers shop online at least some of the time, it found, while 75 per cent have either spent more online during the crisis or the same as before it struck.

The pandemic has seen a swing towards Irish ecommerce sites, the Tipping Point report noted, with consumers shopping with locally owned businesses more than they usually did out of a sense of solidarity. Consumers who shopped online with international retailers cited lower prices and a broader range of products as the factors behind their decision.

The report concludes that the swing to online Irish retailers will likely be reversed once the economy returns to “normal” and consumers no longer feel it is necessary to support Irish ones.

Online investment

When Irish SMEs were asked why they hadn’t invested in online services since the Covid-19 crisis, 46 per cent said that online simply wasn’t a priority for them. Some 12 per cent had been forced to divert money to wages and bills, while 14 per cent had managed to do most of their business in-store.

“Sustained online spending has been one of the few good news stories for Ireland’s Covid-19 economy. Our research shows a swing in online retail sales away from international retailers, which have traditionally dominated Ireland’s €16 billion annual e-commerce spend, to Irish SMEs. This is an important milestone,” said IE Domain Registry chief executive David Curtin.

“This swing, welcome as it is, is not necessarily a permanent one, and this an important point for business groups and the Government to consider as the country begins its economic recovery.”

Digital Business Ireland chief executive Lorraine Higgins said Covid-19 had highlighted the “pressing need” for businesses to operate both online and offline. “Never before has the need for a digital business model been more acute.”

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