Who’s leading the return to the UK high street?

New consumer data shows UK Gen Z are excited about a return to shopping IRL but Millennials will keep on clicking.

Millennials are more committed to online shopping than their Gen Z counterparts, a survey of 1,000 UK shoppers aged 18-40 shows. 

Half of shoppers aged 26-40 say they’ll maintain their online shopping activity despite physical stores being open again, in comparison to 46% of Gen Z (those aged 18-25). 

Despite being the most digitally native demographic, Gen Z are keener to get back to shopping IRL; a third say they will shop online less post-pandemic (countered by the 17% who say they will shop online more, this is a net reduction of 16%). Millennials will also cut back on ecommerce but not by as much; 29% will shop less versus 16% who will shop more (a net reduction of 13%).

76% of consumers aged 18-25 agree they “can’t wait to return to shopping in physical stores.” That’s compared to a lesser 68% of Millennials. 

Despite this, both demographics show strong commitment to shopping online in two particular categories. Nearly 54% of Millennials and 57% of Gen Z say they will prefer to shop for clothing, shoes and accessories online, while 50% and 48% respectively will prefer to shop online for electronics, home appliances and tech accessories. 

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57% of Gen Z prefer to shop online for clothing & accessories

On the other hand, food and drink is the category they’re most likely to abandon; 54% of Millennials and 51% of Gen Z  say they’re more likely to shop for this category in physical stores. 

Elsewhere, Millennials show greater intent than Gen Z to continue shopping online for all other categories, including furniture and homewares (36.5% versus 27%), gifts and flowers (37% versus 30%) and toiletries, makeup and health supplements (36% versus 32%).

Millennial men most likely to take out new product subscriptions 

Millennials are more likely to have received products by subscription than Gen Z during the last six months (16% versus 13%). And while equal amounts took out subscriptions during the pandemic, Millennials are more likely to have had product subscriptions already in place. 

The older demographic show more satisfaction with their subscriptions with less intention to cancel; 32.5% of Gen Z who currently have a product subscription plan to cancel one soon versus 31% of Millennials. And of those who already have a subscription, Millennials show more intent to take out a new one; 52% versus 44% of Gen Z.

31% of shoppers aged 18-40 are open to a new product subscription 

Looking at respondents overall, the notion of receiving products by subscription remains broadly of interest; over 31% of both demographics say they’re open to taking out a new product subscription this year. Interestingly, Millennial men show the most intent to shop for product subscriptions in 2021 (34%).

Women have missed shops the most

The return to the high street is very much being led by women; 79% of women say they can’t wait to get back to the shops versus 65% of men. Gen Z females especially want to hit the shops; 83.5% versus 68% of males. The sentiment is echoed by 75% of Millennial women, while Millennial males are the least eager to return to physical stores (61%).

Men in general are far more likely to stick with online shopping; we see a 9% net reduction of planned online shopping activity among men, compared with 20% of women. The smallest net reduction is seen among Millennial men; 6% will shop online less versus 12% of Gen Z males.

6% of Millennial men will shop online less post-pandemic

Women are also more likely to say they care about supporting local businesses than men. Just over 75% of females say shopping locally is important to them versus 71% of men.

Northerners show more support for local businesses

People who live in the north of the UK are most excited to get back to shopping in physical shops (81% can’t wait) and they show the most intent to decrease online shopping activity (a net reduction of 24%). Northerners also show the most desire to support local businesses (76%), indicating there’s a possible correlation between a consumer’s personal values and how keen they are to return to stores. 

Their counterparts in London, on the other hand, are least likely to think shopping locally is important (66%). People in the capital are also the most likely to be planning on maintaining or increasing the amount they shop online, showing the lowest net reduction of 8.5%. Consumers in the capital also remain the most open to taking out new product subscriptions (37%).

8.5% of Londoners plan to reduce online shopping activity

In the south of the UK, shopping locally is also important (75% agree) but people there remain more likely to stick with online shopping than those in the north (a net reduction of 17%). And while 70% of shoppers aged 18-40 in the south agree they can’t wait to get back to physical shops, this is significantly less than their counterparts in the north (81%), highlighting a north/south divide when it comes to the return to the high street.

The D2C Digest (UK edition)

Full of the latest consumer insight, case studies, interviews and expert advice, the D2C Digest is an essential read for D2C marketers and brand leaders.

Get your copy now!

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.

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