As non-essential retail prepares to reopen on June 15, UK consumers are reluctant to return to ”normal life” seven in 10 uncomfortable going shopping according to the second EY Future Consumer Index. 

Although grocery stores have remained open throughout lockdown, just 25% said that they currently feel comfortable in supermarkets. Of the 1,017 consumers surveyed, 80% also said they would feel uncomfortable trying clothes on in the newly reopened fashion stores.

Looking to the future, 45% believe the way they shop will change over the next one to two years, with 64% expecting to shop less but spend more each time. 57% also said they would be more aware of hygiene in shops.

EY’s report also reveals that 67% of consumers expect it to take months or years for them to return to restaurants, 80% believe the same for visiting cinemas, and 73% expect not to return to bars or pubs in that time. 

The cautious outlook of the UK consumer is reflected in consumer sentiment in China. While lockdown has been lifted there, life has not yet returned to ‘normal’ –48% of those surveyed agreed that the pandemic has stimulated long term changes in how they live their lives, and 49% agreed that their values and the way they look at life have changed.

However, according to EY, 56% of Chinese consumers expect an economic recovery in the next 12 months, compared with 25% of the rest of the world.

EY consumer product and retail partner Silvia Rindone said: “UK consumer companies will need to be aware of consumers’ heightened concerns and make every effort to mitigate anxiety if they are to prosper in this new market. Adaptability has always been crucial for any consumer-facing business, but it will be more important than ever for companies if they are to emerge stronger from this pandemic and serve understandably anxious consumers.

“Companies need to think about reinventing their customer experience so that consumers feel reassured that the risk has been minimised. They must go the extra mile to help them feel safe and entice them back into a communal space. The browsing experience, for example, will change. With social distancing, a person’s presence in-store could prevent someone else from entering, lessening browsing time, and making the shopping experience far more transactional. Simplifying the choice for consumers would also be a sensible move so that every item can be easily seen and purchased.”