Sofie Willmott, Lead Retail Analyst at GlobalData, the data and analytics company, offers her view on this news.
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.
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. This additional off-putting factor 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.