UK footfall in slow recovery as retail parks, local high streets are 'busiest'
Footfall to retail areas is beginning its long recovery journey even though non-essential stores aren't yet open and this bodes well for the June 15 reopening of those shops. That’s the conclusion from the latest report by specialist footfall tracking company Springboard.
It said that during May, overall footfall in Britain was down 73.3% year-on-year. Admittedly, that doesn't exactly look like good news on the surface. But it was an improvement from the 80.1% fall during April and means that even though consumers were still being urged to stay home, many still felt confident enough to venture out.
And they seemed to be going to retail parks in particular as footfall to these fell only 55.1% (compared to 68.1% in April), supported by the presence of essential food stores and the homewares stores that were allowed to open mid-month. Footfall to high streets still declined by 78.2% and by 80.5% to shopping centres.
The easing of the decline was helped by the month being the sunniest May since 1957, combined with two bank holidays that book-ended the period. In the week leading up to each bank holiday, UK footfall rose by an average of 12% from the week before, compared with just 5.5% in the other two weeks of the month.
So what does it all mean for when more stores open next week?
Springboard said there’s “a huge amount of pent-up demand among consumers for in-store shopping. [This was] reflected in monumental queues at major home stores in the weekend before 1 June, and in the days following”. That was made clear by the queues outside IKEA shops, with waits of four hours at some locations.
The company also said smaller high streets have been the most resilient as consumers stayed local. Footfall in regional cities declined by 88.8% in May compared with 41.4% across the smallest high streets and this could mean an ongoing commitment by some consumers to staying local in the months ahead.
This could boost UK high streets that have been in decline for some time and retailers are taking note. We’ve already heard that some retail chains will focus on high street store reopenings, Space NK saying just last week that such stores would open before those in other locations.
Additionally, Springboard said that destinations and stores that are “best able to manage customer numbers to ensure social distancing will be the most demanded by consumers as safety during shopping is paramount”.
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