Bank holiday blues?

Dan Gillett
Shopper Insight Manager

Date : 02 September 2020

Over the bank holiday weekend we asked 2,000 shoppers about their plans for the break, to see whether this bank holiday – being the first of 2020 not under total lockdown – would be treated differently to a normal bank holiday, perhaps with a bigger celebration or a specific event. What we found was a tale of two groups – younger shoppers, who had bigger plans for the weekend than normal and older shoppers, for whom it was business as usual.

Just a normal bank holiday

Despite the rest of 2020’s bank holidays taking place during lockdown, only 16% of shoppers told us they would make a bigger occasion of this one than a normal bank holiday to make up for that. This was higher among younger shoppers (32% of 25-34 year olds said they would) and much lower amongst the oldest shoppers, with only 5% of over 65s agreeing.

We know that the youngest shoppers have tended to struggle during lockdown, particularly with mental health, so it’s not a surprise that they were more likely to make the most of the long weekend. However, the steady wind back of lockdown measures and predominately good weather does not appear to have encouraged the public as a whole to go out.

Eating Out

With the end of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, we expected that many shoppers would take advantage of the discounts available and head out to restaurants, particularly on Monday. And while anecdotally restaurants were full on Bank Holiday Monday, only around a quarter of shoppers (26%) actually said they planned to eat out - rising to 34% among shoppers aged 18-44, but for those over the age of 45 only around a fifth (19%) said they had any plans.

Our Shoppers of Our Time project highlighted a continuing reluctance to eat out of the home and get back to a normal life, and while Eat Out to Help Out appears to have done exactly what it intended to, it remains to be seen whether it will have done enough to encourage the public to continue eating out in the months ahead.

The opportunity for food retailers and manufacturers is to enable nervous shoppers to bring the out-of-home experience in-home during the cooler, darker winter months for affordable prices and with great quality. The challenge for out-of-home providers is hooking in consumers who are less nervous, and convincing them to keep returning during the traditionally quieter autumn and winter months.

A return to savvy shopping habits

With the UK officially now in recession – and a big one at that – we have already begun considering what a return to the savvy shopping habits seen after previous economic downturns might mean for your business. Perhaps going some way to explaining the slightly damp response to this bank holiday is that 30% of shoppers told us they intended to keep a closer eye on what they spent on food and groceries.

This was much higher amongst younger shoppers – with 40% of 18-44 year olds saying they would, compared with around a fifth of those over 45. This focus on saving money could have been the driver behind lesser plans for the weekend, and is something to consider as we go into the event season. We took a deeper look at half two events in a recent report, with shoppers telling us that there would be less forward planning, smaller scale celebrations and much less eating out. Suffice to say, with COVID on everyone’s minds it may be a challenge to convince shoppers to return to business as usual for special occasions at the end of this year.

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