It hasn’t been the easiest start to the year for the UK retail industry, with headlines dominated by store closures, grocery shortages and price rises, and the industry feeling the effects of a variety of ongoing world events.

But with a series of spring bank holidays just around the corner, along with Easter weekend and the coronation of King Charles III, are there reasons to feel more optimistic about the future of retail over the next few months? A recent survey commissioned by marketing agency Gekko and carried out by YouGov certainly seems to suggest so.

Bank holiday shopping is on the rise

Out of over 2,000 respondents, 13% (equivalent to approx. 9 million of the total UK population) reported that they were definitely planning to head to brick-and-mortar shops during the upcoming bank holiday weekends.

This percentage increased to 18% (approx. 12.4 million) for 18-34 year olds, giving retailers a great opportunity to increase sales and engage with a generation that could become valuable loyal customers in the future.

Another positive finding was that 19% of consumers said they were likely to spend more on a bank holiday weekend than an ordinary weekend (13 million people). While this should be balanced against the promotions and discounts that retailers often run over holiday weekends in order to generate greater sales, it still suggests there’s a welcome willingness from consumers to treat themselves this spring.

In fact, shopping came in as the fourth most popular bank holiday activity (21%) after going for a walk (45%), visiting family and friends (41%) and going out for a meal (25%). With traditional bank holiday activities also often including DIY and home improvements, it’s not surprising to see that DIY stores/garden centres ranked as the most popular shopping destination at 22%, followed by fashion stores (21%), homeware/furnishing stores (16%) and department stores (14%).

Consumers want a retail experience

Of course, having consumers willing to visit our high streets is only half the battle. Retailers also have their part to play in enticing shoppers into their stores, generating sales and creating the experience that modern consumers are seeking.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents said that a pleasant retail environment was an important part of a great retail experience, with a marked difference between women and men (67% and 53%). In addition, 59% wanted to see promotions and 42% wanted to be able to speak with knowledgeable shop staff.

These findings suggest that consumers are looking for more than simply straightforward monetary transactions, and that effective displays, eye-catching POS, thoughtful store designs and knowledgeable staff are all essential parts of the modern retail experience.

The future of shopping is social

The survey also found that the social and leisure aspects of shopping are becoming increasingly important for shoppers in general and for younger shoppers in particular.

45% of people reported combining shopping with a meal out (rising to 53% among 35-44 year olds) and 30% meeting with a friend for coffee/drinks while out shopping (rising to 40% among 25-34 year olds). The results were similar when consumers were asked about shopping for the home: 55% indicated they preferred shopping with friends and family in comparison to 39% who shopped on their own.

Those aged 18-24 were also the most likely to look for leisure options while out shopping (26% compared to 5% for the over 55s).

All of which combines to present a trend towards shopping as a leisure activity, where consumers can relax, socialise and have fun while purchasing the products they want. This will require retailers to think creatively, to engage with their customers and develop offerings that put the shopper at the heart of the experience.

The potential opportunity appears to be huge – and we’re perfectly positioned to help retailers make the most of it. Our talented Harrison Retail team is adept at transforming retail spaces, helping to create attention-grabbing window displays, and developing bespoke products for a multitude of POS and display purposes.

You can find out more about our services online and also how we’ve helped other leading brands to achieve their retail ambitions.

Looking for ways to maximise the impact of your retail space this spring?

Contact our retail team today!