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Good news for bricks and mortar retail as pre-pandemic footfall gap continues to shrink

Tom Bottomley
26 April 2021

Footfall across all UK retail destinations last week, 18-24 April, 2021, was -19.9% below the 2019 pre-pandemic level compared to the same week, noticeably better than the previous peak of -25% at the end of August, 2020.

Retail park footfall was +2% above the 2019 level, which continues to reinforce the attractiveness of this destination type to shoppers, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard.

However, footfall declined by -3.4% last week from the week before across all UK retail destinations, while on Saturday, 24 April, footfall rose by +0.9% across all UK retail destinations, providing the first indication of the significant impact of home working on retail footfall during the working week.

That was highlighted by the fact that the average decline in footfall between Monday and Friday in shopping centres of -17.8% was more than double that of -8.6% in high streets, many of which are smaller and more local, and therefore easier to access during the working week.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “The positive news for bricks and mortar retail continues, as the gap in footfall last week from the same week in 2019 continued to narrow, with the week ending at a higher level than at the previous peak at the end of August 2020. However, momentum in the recovery of retail slowed slightly last week, with footfall across UK retail destinations dipping slightly from the previous week when non-essential stores reopened.

“The tremendous opening week for retail was undoubtedly helped by the fact that it was the last week of the school Easter break for many children, which meant some parents took leave from work to visit stores and retail destinations as a family. It is therefore not surprising that footfall dipped last week from the week before, as children went back at school and many people continue to work from home making stores less accessible over the working week; evidenced by the fact that the drop in footfall occurred between Monday and Friday, while on Saturday it continued to rise.”

Separate figures released by the New West End Company show that the second Saturday (24 April) after non-essential retail reopened saw footfall around 57% of the usual number of April visitor, a far better figure than achieved after the reopening from the first lockdown last June.

Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive of New West End Company which represents 600 businesses on Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street & in Mayfair said: “With the continuation of the warm weather heading into the weekend, we were delighted to see Londoners making the most of the sunshine and heading back to the West End to refresh their spring wardrobes and enjoy time with friends and family in outdoor spaces.

“We’re encouraged by the sustained levels of footfall that we’ve seen in the district, already tracking well ahead of the first reopening in June 2020. However, it is imperative that businesses continue to be supported in the right ways to help them recover.

"We desperately need an extension of Sunday trading hours in Britain’s two international centres - London’s West End and Knightsbridge. These returning shoppers are looking for flexibility - we’re seeing high levels of footfall in the district in the evenings, highlighting the public’s desire to shop, dine and enjoy the West End at their convenience.”

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