UK shoppers have accrued nearly GBP100m in unused shopping vouchers during the coronavirus lockdown, the consumer group Which? has estimated. The survey of 2000 adults across the UK in August revealed how a quarter of people possessed shopping vouchers - worth GBP45.70 on average - which were left unspent when shops and businesses were forced to close. Although some retailers contacted customers to try and extend them, a third of those with an expiring voucher were not granted an extension and lost their money.
The i newsletter latest news and analysis
Almost half - or 49 per cent - of those with an expiring voucher said it was automatically extended by the retailer, but one in seven said they had to request an extension.
A severe financial impactShoppers wearing protective face masks walk near a sale sign in a shop window inside a Carrefour hypermarket (Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Shops eventually reopened throughout June (in Northern Ireland first, followed by England, Wales and then Scotland) with some long queues outside stores. However in total, it's thought approximately GBP98 million was lost across the whole of the UK. Nearly half - or 46 per cent - of those who had not had an extension on their vouchers were aged over 55.
Which? said many retailers introduced new Covid-19 terms and conditions during lockdown and offered to extend vouchers; some were proactive, whilst others were not so helpful. One person told Which? that a company had told them "hard luck, basically".
Contact the company
The consumer group advised anyone who has a voucher that expired during lockdown to contact the retailer to try and get an extension. Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: "Our research suggests consumers may have lost tens of millions of pounds on expired vouchers during lockdown.
"Many retailers have extended shopping vouchers that expired during lockdown, so if you have a voucher you were unable to use it is worth contacting the company."
It said anyone considering buying shopping vouchers should be wary, as coronavirus has had a severe financial impact on many retailers - and the possibility of further coronavirus lockdown restrictions could also make it difficult to spend vouchers.
Additional reporting by Press Association