Consumers return to shops as online shopping slows down

43% of shoppers are spending more in their local community than before the Covid pandemic, while 79% of people said they prefer to shop locally in their town when they can.

This is according to the second edition of Penney’s “Pulse of the Nation” Index, in partnership with Amárach Research.

The index also shows that Irish consumers are returning to towns and shopping centers as the online shopping peak wants.

61% of consumers surveyed now find in-store shopping more enjoyable than online and said they prefer to put their money into their local towns and communities.

1,200 participants took part in the survey and explained why their interest in online shopping had waned.

Some of the top reasons included the hassle of returning items bought online (55%), the products they had purchased were not advertised (45%), increased costs associated with returning goods bought online (39%), delays in receiving goods or not receiving their product at all (31%).

Penneys said that while Irish shoppers went online due to Covid, those shopping changes did not become permanent and since the Covid restrictions lifted shopping behavior has reverted back to its pre-2020 pattern.

The Central Statistics Office noted that only 7% of clothing, footwear and textile sales from Irish registered companies were online purchases in 2019, but this spiked to 66% of all sales for the category in April 2020.

Since that peak there has been a shift back with online sales of clothing, footwear and textile sales accounting for just 8% of overall turnover in February of 2023.

The research also identified factors why some people prefer in-store shopping including physically trying on items (72%), the ease of returns (54%), not having to wait for items to be delivered (47%); and the overall social outlet of shopping with family or friends (32%).

Amárach Chairman Gerard O’Neill said the latest Penneys Pulse of the Nation Index offers an insight into where and why consumers spend their money, the future vibrancy of town centres, and the opportunities presented by the digital economy.

“A narrative has emerged that the future of retail was online, but we have seen over the last 18 months that this is much more complex with trends reverting to something similar to pre-2020,” Mr O’Neill said.

“The Irish public is clearly still a huge fan of the in-store experience and with more people spending time in their communities to hybrid work, it represents an opportunity to revitalize towns and villages across Ireland,” he added.