GlobalData says many consumers will see the face mask requirement as another reason not to visit non-essential shops

GlobalData says many consumers will see the face mask requirement as another reason not to visit non-essential shops

Non-essential retailers in England are set to take another hit with face coverings to be compulsory in the country's shops from 24 July in a move that is likely to further fuel the shift to the online channel.

With shopping at physical locations already less appealing for many consumers in light of the restrictions due to Covid-19, data and analytics firm GlobalData says the face mask requirement is "yet another blow" for non-essential retailers.

The Government is to announce today (14 July) that face masks will be compulsory in England's shops from 24 July, with those who fail to comply to face a fine of up to GBP100 (US$125).

"Shopping for non-essential items is already less appealing than pre-Covid due to the queuing involved, the inability to try items on and the risk of catching the virus," adds Sofie Willmott, lead retail analyst at GlobalData. "Many consumers will see the face mask requirement as another reason not to visit non-essential shops as it is a reminder that shopping trips are not what we are used to and are more hassle than before.

"Retailers are keen to make shoppers feel comfortable and to make the experience feel as normal as possible to encourage visits, and in turn purchases, but face masks will be a reminder that times have changed and that shoppers cannot relax as much as they would have done before."

Willmott adds the stipulation will further fuel the shift to the online channel with UK online spend set to rise 25.9% in 2020 while physical retail spend declines 11.8%.

"There will be some consumers who will feel more at ease shopping once all those around them are wearing a face mask which may encourage some who were previously reluctant to go out to the shops. But ultimately footfall recovery is going to be slow and is unlikely to return to the levels we saw pre-Covid until next year, if it even returns to this level at all.

"As retailers, such John Lewis & Partners, Debenhams, and Boots announce store closures, increasingly empty shopping locations will be less attractive and more consumers are likely to turn to online purchasing for convenience and choice."

Last week, John Lewis said eight stores will permanently shutter as the group presses forward with a major business strategy review, while Debenhams confirmed last month a further three stores would not repoen after lockdown restrictions were lifted after it failed to agree terms with landlord Intu.