UK retail footfall still way down in May

UK footfall decreased by 81.6 per cent in May – a shallower decline than that seen in April, as more categories of shops were able to reopen.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and ShopperTrak figures showed High Street footfall down by 77.8 per cent year-on-year, faring better in comparison to shopping centres, as local convenience stores saw a rise in popularity.

Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 55 per cent year-on-year, with the analysis suggesting that wider open spaces in comparison to other locations and a higher proportion of supermarkets helped to shelter them from a steeper decline.

Shopping centre footfall declined by 84.9 per cent year-on-year, making them the most negatively affected location, partly due to enclosed spaces making social distancing more of a challenge.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson noted that other countries which have lifted their lockdown have seen footfall rise by around 15 to 25 percentage points in the initial weeks, “and many retailers will hope for a similar, if not larger rise, as shops in England begin to reopen”.

She added: “Retailers have been under immense pressure for the past three months but the reopening of non-essential shops from today is unlikely to deliver immediate relief, as a mix of low consumer confidence and limits on the number of people able to enter stores mean that many shops will continue to suffer lower footfall - and lower sales - for some time to come.”

The BRC suggested that the government should consider options to stimulate demand, such as a short-term reduction in VAT or a temporary income tax cut for lower-income workers.

Andy Sumpter, EMEA retail consultant at ShopperTrak, commented: “In the short term we expect consumers will visit less, but buy more each visit, making each shopper all the more precious – footfall has a totally new value.

“Initially, consumers may give retailers some goodwill, but soon enough, if there’s a smaller queue, better managed carpark or a seemingly safer, easier shopping environment… shoppers will vote with their feet.”

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