Since April 1, Primark’s Instagram feed has been littered with playful messages and memes telling its 8.7 million followers how it “can’t cope with how excited” it is to see them on April 12, when stores in England and Wales reopen.
And today it seems the feeling is mutual, as thousands of shoppers across the UK flocked to high streets and shopping centers to get their eagerly awaited fix of brick and mortar shopping.
I visited one of the the busiest shopping centers in the UK, to see for myself if consumers were spending or merely taking the opportunity to be sociable on the first day of retail reopening, post the third set of lockdowns.
At Meadowhall, the UK’s fourth largest mall located in Sheffield, England, the crowds were out in force this morning, with Primark emerging as a clear favorite among shoppers of varying ages. Popular categories included denim, essentials, beauty and holiday wear, despite consumers still not being any clearer on what date international travel may be commencing.
The 100+ people queue snaked along past windows filled with summer clothing and beachwear, with licensed products such as Disney branded items also taking center stage.
By lunchtime, Primark was trending on Twitter, with images of long queues shared from locations across England and Wales and many users humorously sharing their “thoughts and prayers” for Primark store colleagues.
MORE FOR YOU
At Primark, lines were also significant inside the store, but shoppers voiced few frustrations about the wait times. Perhaps the Covid-19 generation of shopper is now accustomed to queues, accepting that they are now a part of our everyday lives? As Britain is often perceived by international counterparts as the nation that loves to queue, perhaps this is the moment the public has been waiting for?
Or perhaps this third, colder lockdown, which has presented the public with few sources of joy, has felt harder for many and instilled a greater urge to delight in the everyday and get back to ‘normal’, with the added reassurance coming from the ongoing UK vaccine program. Maybe the time spent at home has reminded some shoppers just how much they’ve missed the in-store experience and how online shopping cannot replace the human interaction delivered by stores.
Whilst many retailers have strong online offerings, those that do not, such as Primark, (which does not have any form of e-commerce offer) have reaped the benefits of customers’ keenest to see, touch and test their products in real time.
And as safety announcements regularly rang out from store loudspeakers, reminding people to properly wear their masks and maintain social distancing, shoppers seemed in good spirits, simply enjoying the togetherness that a day out at the shops can bring. There were whispers from children about “finally” spending their Christmas money, and talks from other shoppers about forgotten PIN codes for infrequently used debit and credit cards.
Today isn’t just about exploring – there were very few real-life abandoned baskets and lots of filled shopping bags – indication of the urge to browse and spend. As one Primark cashier pointed out to me, people are buying items, “…just because they can…” and as shopping is an emotionally charged experienced, these baskets of shorts, bikinis and flip flops bring with them the hope of holidays abroad, staycations and even sunny days at home in the garden for many eager consumers, desperate to come together and embrace a return to some normality and the ability to reconnect with friends and family.
Whatever this “next normal” looks like for consumers in 2021, you can bet they’ll have the right outfit for the occasion.