Consumers Are Returning to Brick-and-Mortar Stores, As the Gap Between On- and Offline Sales Decreases

Last week saw shoppers return to stores at the highest rates since July, according to new data collected by Coresight Research. The numbers support a continuing trend away from the avoidance of public retail places, like shopping malls and stores, as consumers grow more comfortable visiting brick-and-mortar locations.

The latest U.S. consumer survey was undertaken on Sept. 15 and found that 53% of respondents were avoiding shopping malls and centers, while only 39% were avoiding physical stores. These statistics are both the lowest reported level for their category since early July. This is also a 13% decrease in mall-avoidance and 15% decrease in store-avoidance since the peak, which hit the week of July 22.

These decreasing figures suggest that consumers are once again growing more comfortable with shopping in person, which is a positive sign for businesses that have previously relied on brick-and-mortar revenue.

Apparel sales at brick-and-mortar locations also performed more positively than in recent weeks, with 26% of respondents stating that they had purchased an apparel item in-store within the last two weeks. This was the highest figure reported since Coresight Research began asking consumers this question in March and reflects a 9% increase since the initial round of data gathering.

However, online apparel sales fell by a greater amount than brick-and-mortar rose, week-over-week. While Sept. 9 reported the highest online apparel sales rate since the weekly surveys began (37%), Sept. 15 saw this decrease to 32%; a drop of 5%. Brick-and-mortar sales rose by only 2% in the same period, to 26%. This gap between online and in-store sales is now the smallest it has been since June 17.

Overall, Coresight Research observed that this movement back toward physical retail may reflect a broader shift away from the habits picked up by consumers during the pandemic period. Previous surveys found that a significant number of consumers expected to retain these habits post-pandemic, but the most recent data saw a decrease in this response to only half of respondents.

“This week, the proportion of respondents expecting to retain some changed behaviors declined by six percentage points to 50%, versus 56% a month ago and the peak of two-thirds on June 10,” said the report. “This is also the lowest level we have seen since we started asking the question at the end of March, suggesting that consumers are more willing to return to their regular activities than they previously expected.”

In recent months, as coronavirus outbreaks have continued to emerge in various parts of the United States, trends in consumer shopping have often fluctuated amid health crisis concerns. And experts warn that another wave of the COVID-19 virus could cause further disruption to spending habits in the fall and winter.

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