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Gloucestershire Business News

One in four shifting shopping to online

Almost one in four of the UK population say they will make permanent changes to shopping habits with online retail booming during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online sales are estimated to soar by £4.5billion according to a report by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics as more people get use to shopping digitally due to the lockdown.

But one backer of the high street insists the public remain enthusiastic about reopening town centres.

The report, which showed 48 per cent of people plan to avoid busy destinations, said retailers need to look at adapting their physical businesses to reflect the online changes of habits.

Alvaraz and Marsal head of restructuring Richard Fleming said: "The way we shop has fundamentally changed and it is unclear how the dust will settle.

"Retailers with large store footprints face onerous rental agreements and they are locked into a stalemate with landlords.

"The two parties need to start working more collaboratively to preserve mutual value."

Kevan Blackadder, director of Cheltenham BID, admits the pandemic has accelerated a change in shopping habits, but believes shoppers remain keen to continue with more traditional retail habits.

He said: "There is no doubt that the way people shop is changing and this was happening long before the COVID-19 crisis.

"But, by the same token, people's enthusiasm for actually using town centres to shop has been shown by the way they are now coming back to Cheltenham in significant numbers as restrictions are lifted and more businesses open."

He admitted town centres need to adapt and make the best use of what else they can offer beyond retail.

He said: "We are promoting, with borough council support, the use of first-floor former retail space in particular for conversion to residential or office space. It needs to be a town centre where people live, work and play as well as somewhere they continue to do quality shopping.

"What Cheltenham BID is encouraging is for our town centre not be seen as just a retail destination."

He continued: "We need to make sure there are things going on all the time, which is why we were avid supporters of our town being rebranded as The Festival Town.

"We have put on new events and worked with Cheltenham Festivals and others to ensure they have a focus on the town centre as well as Montpellier Gardens."

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