News | Published July 21 2020

FlyResearch poll: week 16 update

London based online market research agency FlyResearch has been issuing weekly polls to its research panel of over 3000 people throughout the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, in order to project how the outbreak and the implementing of social distancing has been impacting the daily life of UK citizens. In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, managing partner Greg Ward discusses the findings from the sixteenth wave of the Covid-19 tracker survey, published on July 16 and sourced from data collected on July 10, and the latest poll includes a more in-depth look into views on the government’s hopes to kick-start the economy, with a particular focus on the retail sector and changing shopping habits.

Beginning his analysis on the customary opening questions concerning health and wellbeing, however, Ward was pleased to reveal that there was a continued positive trajectory.

Ward explained: “Compared with last week’s update, we have seen minimal shift in the first few questions. In last week’s analysis, concerning the fifteenth week of our poll, we commented on a very slight improvement in the percentage of individuals who told us that they do not know anyone suffering from any Covid-19 related issues. That figure of 40 per cent from last week has been maintained this week, and the employment data also remains stubborn. Granted, that means that it is not getting any worse, but the improvement we were expecting to see with the easing of lockdown restrictions and the reopening of businesses is yet to materialise.

“This ‘sort of’ positive news also carried over into our customary question around the emotions experienced by our respondents. The emotion ‘concerned’ remains the most prevalent emotion this week, with 47 per cent of panellists telling us that they are feeling concerned about the future, which is consistent with last week’s figure.

“However, it is an improvement from the opening week of polling right at the end of March, when a massive 65 per cent of the panel told us they were feeling ‘concerned’. We are also seeing a rebound in the prevalence of people feeling ‘hopeful’, which is back up to 37 per cent this week after standing at 33 per cent last week.”

Elsewhere, the number of panel members polling in as feeling ‘angry’ had fallen from 19 per cent to 17 per cent between polls, having stood at 23 per cent in week 14. A mere 11 per cent of panel members reported that they were feeling angered by circumstances in the opening week of the tracker survey.

The positive shift in the emotions of the panel happened to coincide with a small but consistent improvement in respondents’ views on the government’s response to the pandemic, which has been measured week-by-week by a one to ten survey which sees the number one represent the idea that the government’s response has been disastrous, and number ten a successful strategy.

Addressing the latest figures, Ward said: “Way back in week one at the end of March, a mere 12 per cent of our panel scored the governments performance in the bottom three. By the twelfth week we had seen that shoot up to as high as 41 per cent.

“At that time, we commented that the panel had almost exactly reversed their position from the opening week. In week one, 40 per cent scored the government a top three response, 48 per cent in the middle four and just 12 per cent a bottom three score. In week 12 we saw those numbers stand at 16 per cent, 42 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively. Since week 12, we have seen the percentage of panellists scoring the government’s response in the bottom three drop to 40 per cent over weeks 13 and 14, then to 38 per cent last week and now 37 per cent. It is not a dramatic shift as of yet but is nonetheless going in the right direction. Meanwhile, the number of individuals scoring the government in the eight to ten range has risen to 19 per cent.”

A similar improvement was also reflected in FlyResearch’s -100 to +100 speed survey for calculating the panel’s general view on whether the government is acting too slowly or too quickly in easing lockdown restrictions.

Ward highlighted: “In last week’s survey we calculated the score as +33, the highest seen so far, which suggested that the panel feels the government is moving too swiftly in lifting lockdown measures. This week, it has slightly improved by dropping to +31. It is still some way off the most positive score we have seen, which stood at +19 back in week 13.”

In its latest tracker survey, FlyResearch’s unique questions this week centred around getting the economy going again and whether respondents feel that their shopping habits have changed as a result of the crisis. The question separated different types of products into individual categories and looked to ascertain with each one how drastically panellists felt their shopping habits relating to such products would be affected.

Ward explained that the question about purchasing habits arose after retail giant John Lewis extended its click and collect partnership with the Co-operative having predicted that the Covid-19 lockdown, which has led to a trend toward increased online shopping, will lead to a permanent shift toward online retailing as a preferred purchasing method.

“John Lewis are clearly expecting that more of us will begin shopping online as a consequence of the lockdown. The top line conclusion from the question is that John Lewis are right to be concerned but the habitual shift as measured by our panel is not as drastic as it perhaps could be.

“Contextually, it is important to begin by reporting on the percentage of the panel, when factoring out non-buyers of each category, who said that long-term they do not envision any change in their shopping habits. This varied by category but was always the majority response in each instance. For example, 51 per cent of the panel said that they would not change their shopping habits with electronic products. 52 per cent said that their shopping habits would remain the same for pet food and related supplies and also household appliances, while 53 per cent and 54 per cent said that their habits would remain unchanged in purchasing clothing and toys, and food and groceries, respectively.

“Elsewhere, 56 per cent said that they would not alter habits with regard to cosmetics and beauty products, with 57 per cent saying the same for toiletries. Following on, the figures for alcoholic drinks and DIY goods both stood at 61 per cent, and furniture and other soft furnishing products was 62 per cent.”

The product categories where most panellists said that they would continue shopping the same way were for sporting goods [64 per cent], medicines and prescription items [68 per cent] and glasses and contact lenses and cars, motorbikes and related accessories [both 73 per cent].

Ward added: “The concern coming from John Lewis was not that everybody would move toward online shopping, but more that the number that did shift would be significant. We needed, therefore, to establish what picture the figures were painting.

“To give an easy summary, we added up the various figures that involved more of our respondents shopping online and subtracted the percentage who answered less to give a net shifting percentage. Here, we tend to see the flip side of the figures of people who said their habits would remain unchanged; for example, if 73 per cent of people say they will keep their shopping habits the same when buying glasses, that leaves far fewer people who can change their habits, particularly with 11 per cent shown to already be shopping online only in this category. This means the net shift is only minimal, with just an extra one per cent looking to move online.

“The net shift in shopping habits for cars and motorbikes is also very low at two per cent, and for medicines and sporting goods the percentages stand at nine per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. Although, it should be noted that anything ten per cent or above is a sizeable shift when one considers the potential impact on the profitability of physical store premises which still have rents and rates to pay.”

Elsewhere, the net percentage of people altering shopping habits for alcoholic drinks and furniture products stood at 16 per cent in both cases, with 19 per cent for DIY products. The remaining product categories saw a shift of 20 per cent or more, with clothing and electronics both joint-top with a 26 per cent net shift. Household appliances sat just behind at 25 per cent.

The net shift percentage for toys came in at 23 per cent, with the remaining four categories of food and groceries, pet food and related supplies, toiletries, and cosmetics all at 20 per cent.

Offering his take on these numbers, Ward concluded: “It can be surmised that very many people will return to ‘normal’ when it is practical to do so, but any shopping habit shifts in that ten per cent to 26 per cent range are enough to cause many retailers some sleepless nights.”

The final new question of the latest poll enquired as to whether panel members would respond to the government’s pleas to venture out shopping and spend more to help stir life back into the economy, and the figures did not bode well.

Ward said: “The blunt and simple answer to this question is ‘no’. 45 per cent of respondents told us that they would refuse to take any risks with their personal health and then a further eight per cent said that they would not do so citing financial concerns.

“Meanwhile, ten per cent of the panel told us that they were already intending to go out and ‘do their bit’ by spending more when it was safe to do so. Out of the remaining respondents, 25 per cent said that they would at least think about venturing out and spending more in light of the government’s request.

“Therefore, we had only 12 per cent who were actively thinking about changing their minds on this issue by going out and spending money, with just one per cent within that group saying that they would definitely look to go out and shop more.”

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 21 2020

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