Retail declines but high streets prevail

The four weeks from 05 April to 02 May 2020 saw the greatest ever decline in retail footfall as the nation locked down, but there is a shift towards local high streets according to footfall monitor and insights specialist, Springboard.

“In the first month in which the UK has been in full lock down footfall across UK retail destinations declined by -80.1%, nearly double that in March when it dropped by -41.3%,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director. “This unprecedented drop in customer activity, which is of a magnitude never seen before, was universal across all three destination types – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. Retail parks continued to fare better against high streets and shopping centres, with a drop in footfall of -68.1%, due to the strong presence of essential food stores.

“Despite the lockdown restrictions, and the government urging consumers to stay at home, footfall strengthened slightly in the second half of the month; moving from an average of -81.4% in the first two weeks to -77.4% in weeks three and four. This occurred across all three destination types, but most noticeably in retail parks where the drop in footfall shifted from -70.7% in weeks one and two to -63.3% in weeks three and four. Part of this uplift will be a result of the openings of large DIY and home stores which generated long queues at some retail parks.

“What has become clear, but what is not obvious from the headline rate, is the shift in consumer behaviour away from large towns and cities to smaller more local centres. The 20 high streets with the most modest drops in footfall in April (each less than -60%) are all small centres, such as Harold Hill, Prescot, Kenilworth and Dudley. In contrast the 20 high streets with the greatest drops in footfall, which average -89.7%, comprise major city centres and large towns that include Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and London.

“Whilst this is somewhat inevitable given the closure of all but essential stores, it is perhaps indicative of consumers getting into a new rhythm around shopping and working from home. Additionally, the overriding focus on safe shopping and the greater emphasis on community that has come to the fore means that trips to larger towns and cities have been curtailed. Indeed, it is the first evidence available that suggests how consumers may respond to easing of restrictions.”

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