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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : September 09, 2016

Queuing - a British pastime they love to hate

Brits will form a neat line, but retailers need to know that it will not take long for impatience to set in and, potentially, sales to be lost if lines are long.

by Helen Leggatt

Queuing - it's a national pastime in the UK, and one at which every person is accomplished. The importance of queue behavior and manners are brought even more into focus when a Brit leaves home soil and joins the throngs of queuers deemed incompetent in other countries.

However, despite their ability to queue in a seemingly polite and orderly fashion, most Brits hate standing in long lines. A recent YouGov survey of more than 2,000 U.K. consumers found that 7 in 10 would be put off making an in-store purchase by the prospect of standing in a long queue. And, it's not just youngsters - in fact, YouGov's survey found that Millennials were likely to tolerate a queue for longer than those age 55 and over.

Another study in the U.K., this time by First Data, found that Brit find queues in stores more irritating than any other situation. Just 8% of respondents saying they'd wait the longest in a retail store queue compared to 26% in a bank. But, most consumers have little choice of banks to queue in, yet many retailers.

"Queues are a sign of a thriving business," says Raj Sond, General Manager at First Data, "but if not managed correctly, can quickly undo the hard work that has gone into attracting customers, with an off-putting in-store experience which may prevent repeat business."

Retailers are aware than long queues are a problem, nearly three-quarters (73%) admit they are off-putting, yet 54% continue to struggle with a sudden influx of customers. Many are trying to put into place processes that will limit queuing time. Supermarket chain Morrisons has put in place a "checkout promise" that will open up new checkouts for customers if there is more than one person ahead of them in queue.

Morrisons decision came after their own in-house research revealed that queuing was their top frustration in a supermarket - more so than unhelpful service or poor quality products. Their research also found that the average shopper lasts around 6 minutes and 48 seconds before losing their patience in a queue and that more than half of UK adults (56%) avoid shopping at places known for queues and two thirds (64%) would leave shops rather than join queues at checkouts.

Tags: in-store, research, retail, trends

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