The shift is expected to bring "the biggest online frenzy ever"

The shift is expected to bring "the biggest online frenzy ever"

Almost three-quarters of UK shoppers will be put off shopping in-store because of the impact of Covid-19, new figures show, drastically shifting the proportion they spend online.

Research from 'buy now, pay later' service Klarna and Retail Economics shows Christmas spending is expected to be pulled forward too, leading to a bumper Black Friday, as shoppers look to stretch their budgets.

The pandemic has not been easy for bricks and mortar retailers, and the high street is set to face further blows during the most critical months of the retail calendar. Around 71% of consumers say they will be put off from Christmas shopping in stores this year, as measures to control the spread of the virus risks leading to frustrating experiences.

More than a third (37%) say they will avoid physical shopping locations "as much as possible" over the festive period.

Consequently, this is expected to bring "the biggest online frenzy"ever", the research suggests. Online sales accounted for a third of overall retail sales in mid-June 2020, and while this dipped back over the summer months as Covid-19 restrictions eased, fears of crowded environments will see the proportion ramp up again around Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas.

Such has been the acceptance of home shopping in recent months, 48% of consumers have shopped online for products that they previously only ever bought in-store.

Adding to the disruption in trading patterns, Christmas spending is expected to be more spread out this year. Black Friday set to be more disruptive than ever as households look to stretch budgets and take advantage of discounts, particularly online.

Just under a quarter (24%) of consumers are planning to shop for Christmas earlier than last year, with around a tenth (13%) shopping later. Critically, a third of shoppers are hoping to grab a Christmas bargain during Black Friday.

But households are also tightening their belts this festive period, as more than a third (36%) of shoppers expect to cut back on their festive spending. Just 12% of consumers are expecting to spend more on Christmas this year than last.

"A successful Christmas trading period will be a make or break moment for many retailers who remain in survival mode following the impact of the pandemic," says Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim. "The major shifts in spending this Christmas will be towards those retailers who offer the best online proposition and who have the capacity to cope with the levels of demand.

"The unfortunate reality is that many consumers will shun the high street in favour of online to avoid crowded shopping destinations and the frustrations that will come about from restrictive measures such as limiting shopper numbers in stores and shopping centres."

Klarna, UK country lead, Alex March, adds: "Christmas 2020 will be like no other, with uncertainty at the forefront of people's minds. With such a large percentage of people opting out of their traditional Christmas shopping trips to the high street, it is essential that retailers are ready and optimise their online experience to meet this shift in consumer expectations. A smooth website experience and flexibility when it comes to payment are key to ensuring that brands are able to compete."