HALF of all UK consumers have said they are unlikely to step foot in a shopping centre for at least 3 months according to new research. They are put off shopping in indoor shopping centres because off potential overcrowding (66%), long queues (55%) and major concerns about social distancing (54%) since shops have begun reopening after lockdown. According to a new study outdoor shopping centres and town centres look set to become the future of how we shop as almost 50% of UK consumers would prefer to shop in the fresh air, rather than in the huge indoor shopping malls such as Bluewater in Kent, Lakeside in Essex, and Meadowhall in Sheffield. The poll of 2,000 UK adults for outdoor shopping centre The Valley, in Evesham, Worcs, found that fresh air (61%), more space to keep to social distancing guidelines (50%), and wider walkways between shops (41%) are just some of the things that appeal to shoppers in the short term as we come out of lockdown. In the first two weeks since most of their shops re-opened, outdoor shopping centres like The Valley have recorded 80% of footfall and 90% of total shopper spend compared with the same two weeks of last year, showing clear signs of an initial recovery as shoppers enjoy the opportunity to shop locally again. Phil Maclean, retail director for The Valley says: “It’s a positive story of recovery. We’ve had an impressive first two weeks, with people clearly choosing to shop in outdoor centres where they can get back to some normality whilst feeling safe. Spend is high right across the board, from garden to cookware, fashion to bedding and jewellery to craft – it seems that the desire for physical shopping still burns brightly in many. Our strong sales figures show the love for shopping in person is still very much alive and well. Outdoor centres can shape the ‘new normal’ of shopping. With plenty of space between shops, large outdoor spaces to take a break, free and easy parking plus good crowd management to avoid large queues and overcrowding. It’s easy to see why people prefer this environment to crowded city centre malls.” While half of Brits might be cautious about returning to indoor shopping centres and with many shops still struggling in the UK due to this, it seems garden centres (35%) and DIY shops (29%) will see the most customers with UK consumers eager to sort out the homes as they have spent so much time in them. As the retail industry struggles in the wake of coronavirus, the SME club is campaigning for the government to help #saveourshops and asking consumers to shop local and help save the communities that are so important to all of us.