Retailers eye 17,000 UK store openings this year as consumers in Northern Ireland ‘look local’ post-lockdown

Posted By:
Barclays Bank Plc

22nd Jul 2021

New research* by Barclays Corporate Banking reveals that 17,000 local high street stores could open across the UK in the next 12 months as shoppers adapt to a post-lockdown world by ‘looking local’.

In a new thought leadership report published today, Retail Unlocked, Barclays’ data shows that consumers in Northern Ireland have returned to physical stores with confidence since restrictions began to ease: 74% say they have felt safe, or very safe, to return to the high street. A significant portion, 42%, are planning on stepping up their in-store shopping over the coming year and 45% say that it is their favourite way to shop.

However, the benefits are most likely to be seen in local high streets rather than in big cities. Barclays Corporate Banking’s research shows that home and hybrid working patterns will persist into 2022 for 25% of workers in Northern Ireland with 13% expecting to work entirely from home and 25% anticipating a part-home, part-office model. Nearly a third of consumers, 29% across Northern Ireland, now say that the best way a retailer can appeal to them is to open stores in their local area.

As a result, many retailers are reviewing their location strategies. In fact, Barclays’ research reveals that 18% of retail businesses in the UK with 10 or more employees are eyeing community store openings, with each of them looking at five new premises on average. Cumulatively, there is therefore potential for up to 17,000 new local stores** across the country.

Adrian Doran, Head of Barclays Corporate Banking in Northern Ireland, said: “Our report shows how innovative UK retail businesses are looking to build back better to meet the challenges of a reshaped and revitalised retail landscape.

“Ecommerce has been the undisputed winner of the pandemic but not far behind are community high streets, as shoppers seek to ‘look local’ and support the stores on their doorstep. With the continuation of home working, this shows no sign of slowing down, and retailers are now looking at evaluating their store estates to meet local demand.”

Other findings from the Retail Unlocked report show that:

  • Three in ten (29%) retailers are looking to entice more people back to physical stores by laying on experiences such as concerts and exhibitions.
  • Since re-opening, over half (52%) of retailers are seeing an increase in the average spend of customers, with average purchases up 9% on pre-pandemic levels.
  • The most in-demand items, according to 45% of retailers, are products that promote a healthy lifestyle. Younger people are more motivated by products of this type: 23% among 25-34s compared to just 13% of over-55s.
  • Two fifths (38%) of retailers also report an increase in demand for sustainable products with a reduced environmental impact.
  • 40% of retailers now employ data-led marketing to acquire more customers.
  • Retailers are overwhelmingly optimistic about future growth, with 80% confident of growth over the next 12 months, including 41% who are very confident.

Adrian Doran concluded: “As our report shows, the contemporary customer expects retailers to serve their needs: for speed, convenience, locality and, increasingly among younger demographics, for a sustainable ethos. The ability to deliver on these expectations with minimal friction – often by leveraging data and technology – will be pivotal in deciding who will win, and retain, customers in the future. I am consistently impressed at how innovative, agile businesses are adapting their strategies to survive and thrive across the whole shopping journey.”