The Art of Shopping

By Ciara McCrory

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people are adaptable.

When non-essential retail closed its doors over a year ago, people stopped popping to the shops for a few bits. Gone was pottering around the homewares section, mulling over a greeting card purchase and the thought of trying on potentially contaminated clothes became like something from a parallel universe.

People started to do the big shop biweekly with masks and latex gloves, scowling at people who came too close and wondering whether bananas needed to be disinfected when they got home. Amazon Prime packages were plentiful, contactless delivery of course, before boxes were quarantined in the hallway.

Now, just fourteen days after retail reopened its doors it seems people are running not walking back to the shops in a remarkable U-turn.

With Primark queues snaking around every high street in England and Wales and record sales reported, the high street giant has already promised to pay back £72m in furlough payments to the UK government. The retailer famously doesn’t trade online and saw a staggering £3bn hit to sales during lockdown so to turn the corner so quickly is a spectacular testament to the British public’s spending power.

With the successful vaccine roll out in the UK, there’s been an undeniable shift in the public psyche. With dates in the diary and holidays on the horizon, people are hopeful and are filling their bags as such. And it’s not just Primark laughing all the way to the bank, footfall across all UK shopping destinations was up 87.8% week-on-week, analyst Springboard said.

While the first relaxing of lockdown last year saw sales of slippers and loungewear soar, this time people are snapping up lingerie, shoes, handbags and makeup. After months of deprivation and sacrifice, shoppers are buying the dress, the shirt and the shoes and making no apologies for the ‘treat yourself’ mentality.

After a long and extended lockdown, the eagerness to get back into stores and spend hard-earned cash is seemingly reflective of a wider desire to get out of the house, ditch the tracksuit bottoms and begin ‘normal’ life once more.

It seems that demand for IRL shopping is across the board, Dame Anna Wintour, Editor of US Vogue, has predicted a ‘roaring twenties’ of post-pandemic indulgence. Speaking to the FT in a rare interview, Anna credited lines around the block at Gucci and Dior in London to a pent-up demand for luxury.

At this stage, it’s impossible to predict whether our shopping habits have changed forever. But it’s clear there is a hunger for the bricks and mortar stores that was flagging pre-pandemic.

Online shopping proved essential to lockdown life, but perhaps shoppers have had enough. There’s something to be said for moseying around the aisles with a friend, impulse purchasing at the tills and treating yourself to something amazing in real life.