UK Retail Footfalls Recover Ahead Of Reopening

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Covering the five weeks 28 February 2021 – 03 April 2021

For the UK, 2020 was a turbulent year in which much of retail bounced between being open and closed, impacting footfall significantly. To make meaningful comparisons to changes in footfall, all 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic).

With the UK still in lockdown, total UK footfall decreased by 68.7% in March (Yo2Y), with only a 4.9 percentage point improvement from February. This is above the 3-month average decline of 72.3%. Northern Ireland again saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions at -56.4%, followed by Scotland at -66.3% and England at 68.7. Wales saw the deepest decline at -71.2% (all figures are Yo2Y).

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium, said: “Footfall crept up on high streets and shopping centres as warmer weather coincided with the end of the Government’s ‘stay at home’ requirements. The earlier Easter date also gave consumers a reason to do a little extra food shopping. Consumers appear to be more confident about visiting shops, showing that the safety measures put in place are clearly helping to make shoppers feel more comfortable visiting and returning to stores. Non-food retail stores will have lost GBP 30 billion in foregone sales over the three lockdowns. It is essential they are able to trade effectively from April 12, and remain open. Savings have been building up over lockdown, and the economic recovery relies on retailers being able to unlock the pent-up demand in the economy. Government should do all it can to support consumer confidence both ahead of, and during opening.” 

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According to Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, “As the nation looks ahead to the roadmap for unlocking, and with non-essential retail given the green light for reopening on 12 April, we may have started to see the green shoots of retail’s recovery beginning. While non-essential stores remained closed, we saw an incremental improvement in March footfall against February’s shopper counts, fuelled by growing consumer confidence, the promise of greater freedom to come and the relaxation of the Stay At Home guidance.”

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“But, the real test comes as retail reopens later this month – and whether indeed that reopening is, as hoped, irreversible. After a year of yoyoing in and out of lockdown, retailers will be hoping for stability and, once again, will be counting on the continued support of shoppers if any sort of bounce back is to be sustained.  Having invested heavily to ensure their stores remain as safe as possible for shoppers to return, the onus is now on the consumer.”

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