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Shoppers will return to high street, ‘but it will be a different place’

Conor Pierce said shoppers were returning to retail stores, but companies would continue to offer new, online ways to shop.

Martyn Landi
Monday 21 June 2021 00:01 BST
Samsung S21 smartphones
Samsung S21 smartphones (PA Media)

The high street will remain an important outlet for business after the pandemic, but will be a “different place”, Samsung’s corporate vice president for the UK and Ireland has said.

Conor Pierce said the technology firm is already seeing people return to physical retail spaces as lockdown restrictions began to ease and shops started to reopen.

The tech giant’s UK and Ireland boss said its own research had found that many people intended to return to the high street post-pandemic, but the rise of online shopping driven by lockdown restrictions would also drastically change how people shopped, describing the lockdown restrictions as having “fast-tracked” how the Samsung would be “engaging with the market” going forward.

I really do believe that 5G will be the beginning of a new era in how we communicate and how we work and how we play

Conor Pierce

“I think it (the high street) is definitely going to be a different place. I think it’s just a natural evolution and new chapter in retail – obviously forced by the pandemic,” Mr Pierce told the PA news agency.

“Before the pandemic, retail accounted for around 50% of smartphone sales in the UK – and that’s not just specific to Samsung, but during the pandemic that dropped down to 21% – there were some stores still open for click and collect.

“Now, it’s 37%, so quite a significant drop, but maybe not as dramatic as you may be expected.

“What is interesting though is that recent research shows that 20% of UK consumers intend to return to retail to browse and shop. So I think they still recognise that need for retail.

“Of course, everyone has been imprisoned in their homes so they’re desperate to get out anyway, but they certainly see value in retail and retail for us is very important.”

Samsung, like many other major tech brands, moved its product announcements and retail experiences online during the pandemic, creating virtual hands-on spaces to preview new devices to the media and others, with many continuing to run events and offer new ways to shop online.

And Mr Pierce said he believed the current trend for remote working would continue for the foreseeable future, adding that he felt Samsung was well placed to help enable such practices.

“This is an opportunity for us as well, because we’re in a really strong position, particularly with our new computing range – our Galaxy Book range – and with our ecosystem people have the flexibility of working anywhere, whether it’s from home, whether it’s in the office, whether it’s in a cafe, and I think people have got used to remote working,” he said.

He also pointed to the ongoing rollout of 5G networks as a vital tool in helping workers who weren’t heading back to the office.

“I really do believe that 5G will be the beginning of a new era in how we communicate and how we work and how we play,” he said.

“I think, again, because we’re going to live in this new, hybrid working environment.

“And we will continue being connected to our friends and family remotely to a certain extent, and entertained through technology, so I think 5G has a really strong part to play.”

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