The chief executives of a number of high street chains have told the Evening Standard that although digital sales are rising, customers still want physical shops.
Bosses at fashion, accessories and lingerie brands were speaking ahead of ‘non essential’ retailers reopening stores from lockdown on April 12.
Jacqueline Gold at Ann Summers said: “Customers have significantly adapted how they shop over the last year with understandably a greater shift to online, but physical stores still play an important part of our future.”
Gold added that the in store experience with expert staff is very valuable to customers, “especially those who want to discuss more intimate and discreet topics….Highly regarded with our customers are our bra-fits and we’re confident we will see a surge in uptake as our doors reopen”.
The chief executive added that customers have shown appetite for “getting back into stores to see, touch and experience a more personal way of shopping again”.
River Island’s Will Kernan said: “The switch to online shopping through lockdown has seen lots of our store customers buying through our digital channels, but our customers still value the high street. After a year of restrictions, people are excited about shopping in stores again and enjoying the freedoms of normal life.”
Andy Lightfoot, the chief executive of luxury beauty retailer Space NK, said the firm has seen significant digital growth. But he added: “I do think people will return to the high street,”
Lightfoot said shoppers remain interested in expert advice in person, and the ability to see and touch products.
Neil Clifford from Kurt Geiger said: “Our physical locations will always be important to us… also stores totally enhance the performance of our digital business.”
Kurt Geiger will be opening nine new branches from this month, adding to its existing estate. Clifford said customers love choice and “where we have a retail presence we achieve an almost 40% better online business in that area”.
Russell & Bromley said: “You can’t beat leaving a store with a new pair of shoes that you know fit you perfectly.”
Earlier this week Pippa Wicks, partner and executive director at John Lewis, said: “We’re looking forward to reuniting customers with the joy of physical shopping.”
Many high street businesses have had to temporarily close sites at various points over the last 12 months due to the Covid-19 crisis.
A number of online retailers have seen sales soar during the pandemic.