Footfall across the UK rose by 88% in the first week since non-essential retail reopened in England and Wales but remains 25% below the level seen in the same week two years ago.
Comparisons from week to week, and from this year to last — when the country was in its first lockdown — are somewhat meaningless, but by looking back to 2019, the retail industry can get a gauge on how consumers are behaving as shops open and hospitality starts serving outdoors.
Clawing back to just 25% lower footfall than in the second week of April, 2019, is a hugely encouraging start, not least because so much of a typical high street remain closed. Only one third of pubs and one quarter of restaurants have reopened because limiting business to outdoor service makes them unviable. That should change if the next step of the roadmap allows for indoor hospitality from May 17.
“The first week of reopening delivered an outstanding performance for UK retail destinations and stores, with an increase in footfall from the week before that was virtually double our forecast. These results provide concrete evidence of the desire of shoppers to return to bricks-and-mortar stores and destinations,” said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, which provides the footfall data.
“The key issue for retail destinations will be whether this momentum can be sustained. From our evidence of the last two lockdowns, we are expecting footfall to continue to increase over the next few weeks, albeit at a lesser rate. However, the reopening of indoor hospitality on 17 May will provide a further boost to retail destinations as many indoor venues are located in high streets and shopping centres,” she added.
Recovery in footfall has been uneven, with high streets still down 35% on 2019 while retail parks have almost fully recovered and were just 2% down compared to two years ago. Shopping centres are 28% quieter.
A lack of overseas tourists has led to central London footfall remaining 59% below 2019 levels, which compares to 20% for outer London and market towns.
Scotland’s slower reopening road map means footfall remains 53% down on 2019 while England and Wales are down 22% and 29% respectively.