People will fear shopping centres after lockdown, says expert

Sainsbury’s former boss, Justin King, said he is “optimistic” about the future of shopping streets with social distance measures.

But he has warned of a difficult time for shopping centers.

Mr. King, senior advisor at Rezolve, a specialist in retail technology, says he believes customers and retailers will quickly adapt to changes in the streets caused by the virus.

He told the PA news agency: “People will continue to walk safely down the main street and choose to go to shops that look safe or quiet.

“I am optimistic about the shopping street.

“But I think you’re having a hard time convincing shoppers to go back to malls or other indoor areas where they might feel trapped.

“People will find it difficult to climb stairs while keeping their distance, so multi-storey stores may also find it difficult.”

Mr. King, who is also a non-executive director at Marks & Spencer, made the comments when retailers and hospitality companies joined forces to use Rezolve’s SafeZone platform, aimed at reducing contact for customers in stores.

Resolve has made progress in expanding the platform in the UK following growth in China and Germany.

SafeZone allows customers to receive information about inventory availability and pick-up or opening times, while at the same time stores can monitor customer volumes by telling them when it is safe to collect items or enter sites.

Mr. King said he believes the pandemic is “step-wise changing” the way technology is used by retailers and customers.

He said: “We are definitely seeing a shift and platforms like this are benefiting both customers and businesses.

“Customers will continue to try to avoid contact in the short term and that is something SafeZone is trying to manage.”

Fast food chain Leon has started using SafeZone technology to support Click and Collect and fast checkout services in its 75 restaurants in the UK and abroad.

John Vincent, Leon’s founder and CEO, said: “We have a duty to keep our customers and employees safe and if we want British restaurants to recover financially, we – as retailers – must invest in innovative new technology to survive.

“The hospitality industry faces a very uncertain future and this is an important step in reducing the impact for companies, team members and consumers.”

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