Alongside the perspex screens and hand sanitiser stations, major retailers are launching innovations to tempt us away from online shopping. Will they work?
You don’t expect to meet R2-D2 in the cereal aisle, but in certain Asda stores you may well come face to face with a fully automated robot cleaner that wouldn’t look out of place in a galaxy far, far away.
The UK supermarket is reportedly trialling AI cleaning robots in a bid to prove its cleanliness credentials. And it’s not the only retailer innovating in the COVID era.
With coronavirus spreading more easily inside than outside, Selfridges has set up an outdoor market behind its store.
M&S has launched a new-format outlet in Nottingham which it calls ‘fit for the new world’. It doesn’t have robots, but it does have wi-fi and will be ‘seamlessly integrated’ with its checkout-free Mobile Pay Go app.
Speaking of checkout-free, Amazon is making the move to offline shopping, reportedly planning to open 30 stores in the UK, none of which will require you to pay at a till – you’ll simply be charged for whatever’s in your bag as you exit.
And then there’s John Lewis, which has proposed everything from stocking second-hand goods to transforming its stores into homes for affordable rent.
Sainsbury’s is also trialling a virtual queuing system.
The end of the high street?
Experts were predicting the ‘death of the high street’ long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has really accelerated things. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and household name shops have been shuttered.
Online shopping, on the other hand, is thriving, accounting for 40% of sales according to analysts KPMG.
These offline innovations show there’s life in the high street yet, but will they make a difference?
Will flashy tactics get you reaching for your shopping mask, or would you rather shop online until it’s safer?
Had you already switched to online shopping before the pandemic?
Let us know in the comments