Last year's total lockdown of nonessential retailers was a devastating blow to companies and their employees. Most stores have been back open for months now, and, buoyed by government relief and an uncommonly high savings rate, saw some sales recovery, especially by December. But the pandemic continues to keep shoppers away.
Store and mall traffic patterns from late January demonstrate how dependent retailers are on effective management of the disease outbreak. While vaccines were developed with unprecedented speed, their distribution has been slow and staggered. Cases are surging in some areas, with worrisome variants of the disease emerging.
Even once they're vaccinated, 40% of U.S. consumers say they'll shop for apparel as much or less in stores, and another third or so are unsure about or will refuse a vaccine, according to research from experience management platform First Insight. Most (61%) said they'll cut back on spending if there's another shutdown.
"Clearly, the vaccine is not the silver bullet that is going to bring retail back from the brink," Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, said in an emailed press release. "Our latest research shows that even with a vaccine, people will still be afraid to go in-store, and fully prepared to cut back on spending if the nation returns to another lockdown."