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“Pingdemic” hits UK footfall ahead of summer holiday season

Tom Bottomley
05 August 2021

Footfall across UK retail destinations worsened over the month of July to -24% from -22.2% in June - compared with the same months in pre-pandemic 2019 – with the “pingdemic” impacting visits to stores and destinations as people became wary of getting pinged and having to self isolate, potentially scuppering booked summer holidays.

According to retail experts Springboard, July footfall for the four weeks covering 5 July – 1 August declined from 2019 by -30.5% in high streets (a deeper drop than the -27.2% seen in June), -30.2 in shopping centres (versus -29.1% in June) and a more modest -4.2% in retail parks.

The removal of all restrictions at the beginning of the third week of July led to a slight improvement in footfall from the second to the third week of the month.

Footfall rose by +16.5% on ‘Freedom Day’ (Monday 19 July) from the same day in the week before, but it dropped away to a very modest week on week increase, averaging +3% on the following days of the month.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “While there was a clear uplift in activity of +16.5% on Freedom Day from the same day in the week before, it was not sustained and dropped away to a very modest week on week increase. This was undoubtedly due to a combination of weather – incredibly hot temperatures in the week of Freedom Day followed by rain the following week – together with the “pingdemic” which curtailed shoppers’ visits to stores and destinations in case it resulted in them needing to self isolate, a key issue for many people with summer holiday bookings in August.

“The longer term impact of Covid on stores and destinations is becoming ever clearer as we track the vacancy rate each quarter. The latest survey has identified that a greater number of stores are shutting their doors permanently, as the UK vacancy rate rose once again to 11.8% in July from 11.5% in April, when it had improved from 11.7% in January, and it is now at its highest level since April 2013.”

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