Shopper footfall down despite images of post-lockdown crowds

Shoppers flock to high streets in England on 1st Saturday after lockdown lifted
Regent Street, London, on Saturday. (Image: Twitter)
// Shopper footfall down 29% year-on-year, according to ShopperTrak
// Springboard said footfall last week was 41.3% lower than the same week in 2019
// New West End Company also said footfall in central London was 37% lower year-on-year

Despite high streets across England experiencing a festive flurry on the first Saturday since the second national lockdown was lifted, various figures show that there were fewer people visiting shops compared to the same time last year.

Shoppers headed out in their droves on the first Saturday of the month to get ahead with Christmas shopping, with busy scenes reported in York, Colchester, Bournemouth and London.

However, data from retail analysts ShopperTrak shows footfall was down 29 per cent year-on-year as many erred on the side of caution despite non-essential shops being allowed to reopen since Wednesday.

READ MORE: Shoppers flock to high streets in England on 1st Saturday after lockdown lifted

ShopperTrak retail consultant Andy Sumpter said retailers would be hoping “pent-up demand” will continue through until the last Saturday before Christmas – dubbed Super Saturday – on December 19, if shops are to have any hope of a successful golden quarter.

While Saturday did see shopper traffic increase by 193 per cent nationally week-on-week, Sumpter said “many are still keenly feeling the impact of lockdown”.

“Instilling confidence in physical shopping journeys and reassuring consumers that stores are safe will be the cornerstone to ensuring shoppers keep returning, not just to support shops, but also their local communities that rely on the high street,” he said.

The latest data from retail experts Springboard also showed that last week’s footfall across all UK retail destinations remained 41.3 per cent lower than the same week in 2019.

In high streets, it found that footfall was 51 per cent lower year-on-year and in shopping centres it was 45.6 per cent lower year-on-year.

Retail parks across the UK fared much better, but it was still 1.3 per cent lower than in the same week in 2019.

On a week-on-week basis, Springboard found that footfall across all UK retail destinations increased by 40.3 per cent, with a rise of 61.1 per cent in shopping centres, 40 per cent in high streets and 19.1 per cent in retail parks.

In England, the rise in footfall from Wednesday onward compared with the week before was 81 per cent across all retail destinations.

Broken down in categories, shopping centres enjoyed a 121.3 per cent surge in footfall, while high street footfall grew 79.8 per cent and retail parks 40.7 per cent.

“The first week of the reopening of non-essential retail stores in England delivered a significant rise in footfall across all retail destinations last week compared with the week before, but particularly in shopping centres,” Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said.

“This is not an unexpected outcome, as shoppers tend to gravitate towards shopping centres in the run up to Christmas as they host the greatest number of stores in a single location, which also tend to be larger stores with a wider choice of products to choose from.

“The most modest rise in footfall occurred in retail parks, but these locations have been the most resilient of all three destination types in retaining footfall, and so started from a higher base.

“It appears that extended trading hours are helping a little. Whilst the hours post 6pm only generally account for around 30 per cent of footfall across a 24 hour period, there was a marginally greater rise in footfall post 6pm than during day time trading hours of 9am to 6pm.

“Despite the rises in footfall over the week, recovery from the decline that has occurred since the start of the first lockdown is still a way off, with the volume of customers in bricks and mortar destinations remaining far below the level recorded in 2019.”

For London’s West End district specifically, there was a year-on-year drop in footfall despite queues forming for Oxford Street shops on Saturday and arrests outside Harrods as a large crowd tried to enter the Knightsbridge store.

The New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London’s shopping district, said it saw footfall decline by 37 per cent year-on-year.

“Safety is our top priority, and since lockdown has lifted we have been regularly refreshing protective measures such as hygiene hubs and clear street markings to promote social distancing,” a spokesman said.

with PA Wires

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