How our buying habits have changed both during and post-lockdown

High-street retailers have long had a battle on their hands, with 2019 being their worst on record for many of them. Overall, sales hit a record low as online shopping growth failed to offset the downturn of the high street as shoppers chose to spend spare cash on leisure and experiences instead.

With our buying habits changing to match new tech innovations and to suit an emerging customer base, Generation Z, we delve into how the lockdown will impact our buying habits both now and in the future.



Coronavirus has already massively impacted the high street retail landscape. To give one example, clothing giant Primark went from making £650m in sales a month to zero. Other retailers such as Cath Kidston, BrightHouse and Laura Ashley have also fallen into insolvency proceedings as a consequence of the coronavirus.

The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) released new data estimating the closure of 20,620 stores this year – up from around 16,000 in 2019 – based on a three-month lockdown.

‘Prof Joshua Bamfield, the CRR’s director, said the coronavirus has been a “hammer blow” for retailers: “We expect more companies to go into administration followed by the current pattern of an acquirer purchasing a small number of well-performing stores, plus the brand names and the rest of the stores to remain unsold.”

With so many – including big brand – stores facing administration, how can retail adapt and what is the UK population looking for?



With an anticipated nine million people being furloughed in the UK, and many of those facing a 20% pay cut, plus tens of thousands facing redundancy, splurging has definitely become less frequent during lockdown. While we might have bought big on gym additions, entertainment and computing, gone are the opportunities to book a luxury holiday or buy a house,and direct debits for leisure activities have halted meaning more money in our back pocket.

British shoppers have always been enthusiastic online, so it’s no surprise to see many online retailers report a jump in online sales; Curry’s PC World chains reported an increase of nearly double since the quarantine began. With home-working becoming the new norm, it’s no surprise to see a rush to purchase home office supplies.


Panic buying and stockpiling

Throughout the lockdown, key products have seen a rise and fall in desirability and, therefore, availability. First, it was toilet paper with demand soaring as people prepared to stay indoors. Following which, prices soared too.


Panic buying even saw supermarkets implement product limits per customer to try and stem the problem. From toilet roll, the bulk-buying moved to cleaning products such as anti-bacterial wipes and hand gel. From there, we saw an increase in the purchasing of baking goods as the UK population tried to fill their time.


Home entertainment and leisure in lockdown

Other hot products include board games and puzzles, selling now on Amazon for incredible prices. And we can’t forget streaming services. New player Disney Plus has racked up 50m subscribers with its base doubling during lockdown.

The other big commodity of the lockdown was bicycles. Bike retailer, Halfords, has seen its shares jump 17% and struggle to keep up with demand – something we expect to only increase following the Government’s latest urge for people to return to work using bikes as opposed to public transport.



Following recent Government updates, we’re anticipating the reopening of some retail stores to start around early June, but will the masses run out to start shopping on the high street?

If the Government advises it’s safe to go out by summer, and the weather is on our side, there’s no reason to assume why retail won’t see a boom in footfall – just from a ‘getting outside’ opportunity. Whether this impacts sales is another question; we share what we think will see a rise in demand post-lockdown…


Cross-selling using the high street and e-commerce

The first big trend we’ll see is those retailers who have survived lockdown, move to online selling. Primark has always shunned e-commerce, but this reliance on the high street has proved a need for online, something it’s now considering trialling.

People will continue to rely on the ease of online shopping. But given we’ll have been locked down for around three months by this point, it’s safe to assume footfall to high street retail will increase.


Home-makers and DIY-ers

During lockdown there has been a big focus on home improvement, for both the rental and homeowner market, with people spending considerable time at home and having time for odd jobs around the house. Already we have seen large queues outside the likes of B&Q and even more localised DIY stores such as Rightway.

The garden is another big focus to watch out for – with the sunny weather on our side, people have been, and will continue to, spend time in their gardens, making changes and initiating projects.

With a new season brings a new opportunity to refresh, with bedding plants the perfect injection of colour. While plants are available online to order – trips to the garden centre will become a personal project for more people across the UK. There’s nothing quite like visiting in person, selecting and buying to get those endorphins going!


Personal grooming

After being in lockdown for so long, it’s likely that people will have either turned to fitness and shed the pounds, or comfort-ate and added a few pounds here and there. As we move away from living in loungewear and pyjamas, consumers will be rushing out to update their looks.


We can expect long waits for appointments at the hair salon, so we may see trends in at-home hair-dying, or styling options for those who have done at home cuts and styling.


Focus on independent and sustainable shopping

According to Waitrose, shoppers are now more conscious of wasting food, so it’s reasonable to assume that we will become more interested in sustainable shopping. The landscape of our high streets is likely to dramatically change with closures hitting both independent and big-name brands. As such, we could see new, smaller stores – pop-ups – and new business innovation on our high streets.


Money to splurge

For those lucky enough to not be affected financially by coronavirus, it’s likely that savings will slowly grow. Due to the ban on international travel – and with consumers still receiving refunds for previously booked trips – it’s very likely a large number of the population will have a bit of extra cash.


With holidays abroad on hold, we anticipate a potential increase in splurge spending; flipping the trend of moving from retail to experiences on its head. So, now really could be the time to push retail offers; clothing, food, homewares, etc.

We’re keeping ahead of the news and trends for the retail sector, to help support our clients in the industry pivot in this strange time. If you would like to see how we can support your return to the ‘new normal’ and ensure your customers are communicated with in a way that ensures cut-through, book a consultation with our Director of Consumer PR, Jane Woodhead.

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