Hopes for a footfall bounceback washed away in February

February’s rainy weather led to a drop in high street footfall of -7.8%, while the number of visits to shopping centres and retail parks fell by 2.5% and 1.1% respectively, according to Springboard’s Footfall Monitor (covering the five weeks from February 2  to February 29).

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle commented: “If further proof of the fragility of high streets were needed, it was provided in February when the impact of the severe and ongoing rain led to a drop in footfall of -7.8%.

“Whilst an average of 17 days of rain across the UK over the month led to shoppers staying away from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks still appealed to many by virtue of either their covered environment or ease of access and proximity of parking, which in retail parks is free of charge.

“Shopping centres remain at the cusp of achieving some stability in terms of their attraction to shoppers, with an average drop in footfall of just -1.1% over the first two months of 2020 versus -2.1% over the same period in 2019. However, it is the larger centres of more than half a million sq ft that continue to lead the charge in their recovery, with a drop in footfall of just -1.1% in February compared with -4.2% in smaller centres and -8.0% in centres of less than 100,000sq ft.”

She added: “The resilience of retail parks and shopping centres demonstrates that coronavirus did not have a noticeable impact on footfall in February. If Covid-19 had been a significant factor, then it is likely that all three destination types would have been impacted more equally.

“However, the month ended before the warning of its increased severity in the UK was made. So moving forward, it is likely that shopper activity will be stemmed as consumers become more wary about interacting in public spaces.

“Whilst it seems that the first quarter of 2020 will yield yet more challenges for bricks-and-mortar retailers, experience has proven that footfall bounces back quickly once the immediate period of concern has passed.”

Springboard tracks and forecasts footfall across key retail destination types at national and regional levels, recording over 70 million footfall counts per week at 4,500 counting points across 480 different shopping sites in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is part of the Government High Street Task Force working to revitalise local high streets across the UK.

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