Press release

22 Jul 2020 , 00:01 London, GB

Number of UK consumers comfortable returning to the shops doubles from May to June, finds EY report

The third EY Future Consumer Index shows nearly half (48%) of UK consumers are now comfortable with shopping in grocery stores, almost double previous month

  • Over a quarter (26%) are comfortable with visiting a shopping mall, compared with 15% in previous survey
  • The proportion of consumers who would feel comfortable with trying on clothes in store has doubled to 17%
  • Consumers are still keen to minimise exposure due to health and safety concerns. For those who think the way they shop will change, nearly two-thirds (59%) of consumers will look to consolidate shopping trips into less frequent but larger spends

The share of British adults feeling comfortable about heading to the shops almost doubled from May to June, with anxious consumers becoming optimistic consumers, according to the third EY Future Consumer Index.

The survey of over 1,000* UK consumers finds that comfort about shopping in grocery stores has risen from 25% in May to 48% in June. The proportion of consumers who feel comfortable with trying on clothes instore has also now doubled from 8% to 17%. Comfort levels around visiting a shopping mall have increased, with 26% of respondents feeling comfortable in June, compared with 15% in May.

Growing optimism is also reflected in consumer attitudes towards spending. Once the outbreak is over, 17% of consumers intend to spend more on beauty and cosmetics and 22% intend to spend more on clothing and footwear. And in April, just 13% of consumers said they were planning on spending more on big ticket items post-COVID-19, but that figure rose to 18% in June.

According to the report, the proportion of consumers who report feeling pessimistic about how they will shop in future has decreased from 31% in April to 22% in June.

Silvia Rindone, EY UK&I Retail Partner, comments: “Our research shows consumers see light at the end of the tunnel as they emerge from lockdown and try to resume everyday life. We have seen a cautious optimism begin to appear, with consumers feeling more comfortable with spending and venturing out to shop. While optimism about the future is up, we’re still not past the pandemic and getting back to ‘normal’ will still take time.

“Our latest index is published a week before shoppers will be required to wear face coverings in store. Our next report will give us an idea of the impact of the policy on consumer behaviour.”

Continued health and safety concerns

EY’s index has found that health and safety concerns, and minimising exposure to COVID-19, continue to be key factors driving consumer behaviour. 61% of consumers say they will be more aware and cautious about their physical health and 54% say they are less likely to take risks now. For those who think the way they shop will change, nearly two-thirds (59%) of consumers will look to consolidate shopping trips into less frequent but larger spends in the future.

Silvia adds: “To serve the new ‘normal’ consumer, physical retail must continue to adapt operations and offers to capture the share of comfortable physical consumers. Consumer companies will need to focus on providing reassurance to customers, making them feel protected and secure by maintaining a heightened focus on hygiene and sanitation. It’s more important than ever for businesses to put customers’ health and wellbeing at the centre of their strategy.”

Continued pivot to online

Despite stores reopening, there remains a significant continued shift towards online shopping, with 43% of consumers saying they will shop more online for products previously bought in stores in June compared to 17% in May. 64% of consumers say they are visiting physical stores less.

Mona Bitar, EY UK&I Consumer Leader, comments: “Our research shows online growth is a lasting trend. Consumer companies should continue to embrace the opportunity and build capacity to meet demand. This will enable them to gain sales now and in the future. Business leaders should focus on reshaping their portfolios so that they are relevant to the evolving consumer, providing digital customer journeys that reflect the way consumers will behave and creating the transparency needed to secure consumer trust.”

“However, those seeing growth in their online sales must remember that these will be likely to tempered by reduced physical sales, coupled with increased operational costs in store. To thrive in the post-pandemic era, retailers must look to truly integrate their channels, otherwise they risk running two parallel business models with reduced productivity across both and split capital and overall investment activity.”

For the latest insights and information on the UK EY Future Consumer Index visit:


Notes to editors

About the EY Future Consumer Index

The third EY Future Consumer Index is a survey of 14,074 consumers across 18 countries (China, Brazil, Indonesia, India, UK, France, Japan, Germany, USA, Australia, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Norway, Finland and Denmark). *1,012 respondents live in the UK. The index explores consumer sentiment and behaviours across time horizons and global markets, identifying the new consumer segments that are emerging. It provides regular longitudinal indicators and a unique perspective on which changes are temporary reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, which point to more fundamental shifts, and what the consumer post COVID-19 might be like. More countries will be included as the analysis continues.