Keeping Up With The Coronavirus: Shopping, an online experience

Picture this: the sun is out, you’re laid down in your garden, trying to catch those glorious rays of sunlight. Your phone is in your hand and you are swiping through Instagram, pausing at posts to look and like. Suddenly, you pause on a sponsored post for H&M, they’ve got a sale on; you might as well check it out. While you’re looking, you might just have a quick look at Topshop, and Urban Outfitters, oh and maybe those shoes you saw on New Look a while back that are on offer now! The world of online shopping is enticing…

We’re in a lockdown. A lot of us are out of work, working from home, or currently on furlough with a lot more free time than originally envisaged.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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A screenshot of a Schuh advert from my Instagram

Many of us are saving money as we’re either earning the same, or 80% of our salaries. Without the temptation of the outside world, we aren’t spending it in reality so the virtual world becomes rather enchanting.

But when you’ve found the shoes, the new running leggings, or the acrylic nails – made to order – is it okay to click ‘buy’?  

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A screenshot of a Miss Selfridge from my Instagram

David, who works at an Amazon dispatch warehouse believes that online shopping is helping the population, not only with a facade of normality but with their mental health as well. 

“Happy body and mind is very much needed, especially in the world we are living in. 

“So when it comes to “non-essential” items, I dare to argue that some of those are probably the most important things, with those items, people can push through this time as best as possible.”

On the 14th March, the Government announced that the economy could decrease by 35% if we remain in Lockdown until June. Meanwhile, a treasury report has forecast that ⅗’s of businesses would run out of money within three months if there is not some easing of restrictions in the coming weeks. 

Boris Johnson returned to office after his own encounter with Coronavirus with a vague speech about how we are not about to loosen restrictions, but how he is keen for the economy to succeed.

We’re already starting to see the collapse of our high street with Debenhams, Cath Kidson and Oasis and Warehouse all going into administration. This comes with announcing the forced closure of their physical shops and thousands of job losses.

It can’t really be argued against: shopping helps businesses. 

David is thankful to be at work, explaining that working 40 hours a week gives him some structure. However, he feels aware of the government’s advice to stay indoors, saying “It’s safer and better for the NHS and public health, that I wasn’t doing it and keeping myself inside.” 

But equally found himself without much choice as the government’s schemes didn’t really apply to him as a self-employed actor who works zero-hour contracts. 

But despite what staff might want, it seems that businesses want you to shop. A study conducted by myself, of over 100 high-street shop websites discovered that 68% of high street shops are offering sales and discounts on their homepages, reeling in customers with extended returns and free shipping.

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I conducted this study myself, looked on 106 shop websites and compiled this graph based on the findings.

But are we seeing the death of the high-street? Everyday we’re hearing about more physical businesses folding and online businesses thriving. It was reported that Jeff Bezos’ fortune grew by $24billion because of this pandemic.

Meanwhile, Atik Vintage, a vintage shop run on the app Depop have also noticed a spike in sales. 

Tom and Robin, the owners of the business, believe this is because “The only way people can get vintage clothes is buying online and using depop.” 

However, whilst the lockdown has initiated a buying spree for online customers. It has made restocking impossible for Atik Vintage. They said: “We’ve found it difficult in some ways and beneficial in others, it’s put our sourcing of new stock to a halt as we handpick our items… But beneficial as it’s allowed us to focus on moving our older stock to create space for new when it’s all over.”

Despite the rise in sales, Atik Vintage has cut down on the amount of days they ship. They told The Indiependent that before the lock-down, they would ship items three times a week. Now they only ship twice, from their local post office maintaining social distancing but still needing to maintain their business. 

At Amazon, social distancing measures are also in place, including spaced out tape so that workers remain distanced.

David explained that Amazon has also been working to get PPE for its warehouse workers. At the beginning of the lockdown, there was only enough PPE for management.

“They didn’t have a lot of hand sanitizer around and masks were just given to supervisors. Two weeks later there is an increase in hand sanitizers, and everyone has to wear a mask.”

Despite the measures put in place, David says that he still doesn’t feel completely safe. He is however glad of the effort being made. 

With everybody stuck inside, many people have turned to the internet for many things: for the news, to speak to loved ones, and unsurprisingly, to shop the sales. As Tom and Robin put it, “more people seem to be online shopping to get their fix”.

David, however, does not see a problem with this as long as people are shopping responsibly and not every day. He said:

“[Online shopping is] probably the most moral thing to allow. People need these things to keep the mental demons at bay. 

And [as long as] they use online shopping with a slight restraint in consistency, then every item sent is essential in my eyes.”

Adding that shops have helped families who were having to celebrate during lockdown. David explained that his sister’s birthday occurred a week into lockdown. 

“With Amazon I was lucky enough to get her some presents over to her. That slight luxury helped her through what was most likely the most miserable birthday she has had so far.”

Physical businesses are going to shut during this pandemic. The economy is going to shrink. But the internet is thriving and whilst big businesses continue to flourish, small businesses are also benefiting.  

Words by Hana Kelly

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