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UK should be “ready for a spending boom” once lockdown lifts

Tom Bottomley
15 February 2021

The UK should reap the benefits of a spending boom once the latest lockdown lifts, according to the latest survey from consumer and location intelligence specialist, CACI.

The research indicates the extent of the growing positive sentiment among consumers as the vaccine roll-out gathers momentum, with a boost to the economy looking likely as people can get out and about more freely once again, and businesses are allowed to reopen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to publish a roadmap of England’s exit from lockdown on 22 February. Speaking to the nation today Johnson said he wanted any easing of restrictions to be “cautious but irreversible”.

It is widely expected that schools will begin to return on 8 March with non-essential retail to open possibly later in March or early April, followed by hospitality. Over the weekend it was confirmed that the UK has hit its target of vaccinating the four most vulnerable groups of the population with 15m having received a first dose.

On a very positive note, the new survey indicates that almost three quarters (74%) of consumers’ finances have improved or stayed the same as a result of the pandemic.

The number of people on reduced salaries has halved since the first lockdown, and those on furlough have also reduced by a third.

A vast majority of 86% of consumers want to get the vaccine, with demand strongest among the older vulnerable groups.

Additionally, 30% of consumers plan to revisit a big life event they have been putting off, 14% of respondents plan to buy a new car - rising to 20% in London - and 6% intend to buy their own home this year.

Also, 15% of consumers plan to treat themselves to a more expensive holiday this year, while almost half of those planning a holiday intend to stay in the UK.

The findings from the survey, carried out in January, 2021, also highlight the lasting implications the pandemic has had on consumer behaviour, and how that might impact landlords and retailers.

There has been a distinct “flight to online” which is here to stay, meaning that to be successful shopping malls and retailers need to be omni-channel. While one if five consumers plan to shift their fashion shopping online, an equal number are planning to spend more in stores on clothing.

“Love local” is another key trend to have emerged, as consumers have reconnected with their local areas - with greater emphasis on supporting local businesses.

“Safety first” is another key point raised by the survey - even with a vaccine, as consumers want to see active social distancing and more personal space. A huge 88% of respondents want to feel safe in stores, up from 59% in September last year, and 55% of respondents would like to see safety precautions in place forever.

There is also now a real “spotlight on brand ethics”, and brands must be transparent and socially conscious, or risk reputational damage.  For example, for 67% of respondents, the contribution a brand makes to overcoming the global challenge will affect where they spend their money. This compares to 16% of respondents in September, 2020.

Alex McCulloch, Director of CACI Property Consulting Group, said: “The nation can now see a way out of the pandemic, and for a large part of the population the successive lockdowns have given them the chance to save money as there has been little opportunity to spend.  While it is highly promising that economic confidence is taking a turn for the better due to the vaccines, the data also shows it is key that destinations and brands do not revert to old behaviours and attitudes because consumer behaviour has changed permanently.

“Destinations and brands must work hard to understand the changing mindsets of their target audiences and communicate in ways that resonate. We need to plan for where customers will be, not where they are now.

The post-lockdown survey research is the latest in a series of industry insights published by CACI, as it works with landlords, retailers and leisure operators to help them better understand changing consumer behaviour.

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