The coronavirus pandemic is set to have a long-lasting impact on the way consumers live their lives and how they want to shop, Retail Week’s flagship report finds.

Retail 2020, produced in association with Microsoft, is now in its ninth year and provides a state-of-the-nation review of the retail market, based on in-depth interviews with the leaders at 25 of the UK’s most influential retail businesses. In addition, we also interviewed a selection of retail and consumer specialists.

WGSN Insight senior analyst Petah Marian believes “coronavirus is set to drive significant evolution in consumer beliefs and attitudes”.

“Concerns about their financial wellbeing will change the value equation for many consumers in their discretionary spending. They’ll be concerned about price, as well as seeking products that reflect their personal values, while also creating a sense of stability.”

Futurologist Howard Saunders believes the outbreak of Covid-19 has provided the developed world with “the socio-economic reboot we’ve all been yearning for”.

As people have become increasingly aware of the impact of their consumption on both the planet and those around them, society has been steeped in uncertainty about its purpose.

“We’ll take on more DIY, learn to knit, sew and play instruments. In short, we’ll live much simpler, dare I say more austere, lives,” says Saunders.

Clear direction of travel

A positive outcome, Saunders forecasts, is that consumers will become more content with their lives.

What this means for retail as yet remains unclear but, as Marian suggests, it is possible that consumers will seek retail brands that do good and help bring meaning to their lives.

A wider change in consumer attitudes was also reflected in the interviews with the 25 CEOs.

All of them said sustainability had become more important to their businesses in the past 12 months when interviewed between January 21 and February 17 this year.

Many of them were also planning to put sustainability front and centre in their investment plans, with 32% saying they would focus on more sustainable product development. A further 32% said they expected greater demand for more environmentally friendly delivery options this year.

While the exact nature of investment plans might be in flux right now, as non-essential stores set to reopen and many battle for survival, the direction of travel is clear.

Consumers have no doubt become more mindful of how they spend their money and what they spend it on.

Retail 2020 cover

To find out more about the retail outlook for this year and beyond, download your copy of Retail 2020 today to discover:

  • Insights from in-depth interviews with 25 retail leaders
  • How the industry has reacted to the coronavirus pandemic
  • What retail’s road to recovery looks like
  • The longer-term implications for consumer behaviour and spending