Bricks and mortar still preferred during pandemic, research shows

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic was in full swing, shoppers still flocked to bricks and mortar stores to buy household items in the six months up to May this year.

According to a new report by Monash University, nearly 60 per cent of Australians bought non-grocery household items in physical stores.

Online marketplaces also grew in popularity, accounting for 10 per cent of consumer spend, only just behind retailer websites at 15 per cent and online-only retailers like The Iconic and Kogan at 11 per cent.

As Melbourne experiences lockdown for a second time, research conducted in May gives some insight into how both consumers and retailers have adapted under the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Eloise Zoppos from Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) unit at Monsah University says shoppers, many of whom turned to online shopping channels for the first time or more regularly as bricks and mortar stores were closed, expect to use online channels more in the next six months due to Covid-19.

“Many shoppers used online shopping channels like marketplaces for the first time during the shutdown, when physical stores were no longer open,” she says.

“And they expect that they will be using online channels more in the second half of the year, suggesting they have become more comfortable and confident in their use.

“But it was surprising to see, especially during the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic, that people still visited and trusted physical stores for non-grocery related purchases. That should give retailers of all sizes confidence that people still value a personalised shopping experience.”

Earlier this year, consumers were reeling from a long list of retail closures, uncertain if this was the beginning of the end for retail. Back then, Zoppos explained it was not a retail apocalypse, but rather a changing of the guard with consumers now having more power than retailers.

“It has been a tumultuous first half of the year, but retailers who are nimble, agile and prepared to adapt to new consumer and shopping behaviours, are going to be successful in the long-term.”