More than half of Australian shoppers (57%) are likely to do at least half of their Christmas shopping in physical stores, according to a new study from INNOCEAN. This is up from 28% respondents surveyed in June.

The INNOCEAN 2020 Life in the Times of COVID tracker found that despite health fears, consumers feel an increasing appreciation for the in-store experience with 78% feeling more inspired in physical stores compared to online.

Further, 32% feel strongly about the importance of bricks-and-mortar shopping to show their support and feel connected to their community, with 90% of respondents saying they will make an effort to support local in the lead up to Christmas.

INNOCEAN head of strategy, Karl Bates said the results were good news for B&M retailers.

“People want to get back in-store as it symbolises a return to normal. It provides inspiration, reconnects people to their communities and enables them to support local businesses in need,” he said.

“If we are to make the shift from retail anxiety to retail therapy, clearly it’s a case of easing people’s concerns with solid health and safety practices. The holy grail is combining speed and convenience with inspiration. Focus on how to get shoppers to the source of inspiration as quickly and directly as possible and more seamlessly connect online/mobile prepping with the in-store inspiration.”

The increased support for in-store shopping has already been seen across the country, with respondents reporting more frequent trips to shopping centres over the past few months: 55% said they had done at least half of their grocery shopping in centres in August (up from 31% in June).

However, seven in 10 Australians still feel anxious about personal health and social distancing when they shop, which will continue to be at the forefront, with 75% stating they would consider social distancing and their family’s health when choosing where to do their Christmas shopping.

COVID restrictions have seen many switch to faster, more functional in-store shopping in recent months, with 80% saying they are using the assistance of retail-related technologies for the benefits of convenience, speed and more personalised experiences.

Bates said the survey results overwhelmingly reflected a nation finding a way to get on with life.

“The past six months have been devastating for all Australians, with COVID-19 transforming the way we live and impacting every facet of life. However, our latest survey results show people are doing what they can to make the most of the situation,” he said.

“Respondents are appreciating the ability to connect with family and community; they’re seeing this as a period to stop and breathe – people are cautiously optimistic about the future and itching to hit the road for a break from it all at Christmas.”