Retail parks set to thrive through lock down

The latest data from Retail Intelligence experts Springboard reveals that footfall across UK retail bricks and mortar destinations was 83.1% lower than Easter weekend last year and 14.5% lower than over the same four days in the previous week. Despite the warm weather providing a clear temptation for leaving home, the latest figures show that the UK adhered to the government enforced lock down and stayed at home to save lives and protect the NHS.

These results follow closely on from Springboard’s figures for the month of March, which ended just a week prior to Easter. March 2020 will forever be remembered as the month that the UK went into lock own due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the closure of all stores but those selling the most essential of items. The resulting impact on footfall in retail destinations inevitably was an unprecedented decline of -41.3% over the month from March 2019.

The impact of the lock down was immediate and enormous – while in the first two weeks of the month, before the lock down was implemented, footfall declined annually by an average of just -2.9%, in the final three weeks the year on year drop averaged -61.5%, reaching -81.4% in the last week.

For retail parks the picture was a little more nuanced; the panic buying that ensued when people realised that lock down was an increasingly likely prospect, meant that the drop in footfall experienced in the third week of the month in high streets and shopping centres didn’t occur until the fourth week in retail parks, and even then the drop was around a third lower due to the need to shop for essentials. In the last week of the month, the drop in footfall in retail parks was 15% less than in high streets and shopping centres.

Inevitably, retail parks will continue to fare better during the lock down than shopping centres or high streets. The need to shop safely is paramount, and with a premium placed by shoppers on suitable ‘social distancing’ large stores situated in more spacious environments are desired, these are most frequently found in retail parks. Even at this early stage, thoughts turn to how UK bricks and mortar retail will fare post lock down.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard commented: “It is likely that even when we are in recovery, the psychological impact of the pandemic will linger with social distancing continuing to be the new normal for some time to come. If this were to be the case, retail parks and the space they offer will be a favoured destination for many.

In the meantime, as lock down is likely to continue for some weeks yet, Britons will remember the role retail staff across grocery, pharmacy and every day essentials stores played in March 2020 and beyond in keeping it possible for families and households to continue to shop during such troubling times.”

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