February a wash out on the high street

Pair of named storms and more than two weeks of rain led to a near 8% slump in footfall, as coronavirus fears are likely to hit March numbers as shoppers become “more wary”

Written by Rhys Thomas

Posted 09.03.2020 | Retail

February a wash out on the high street thumbnail

A one-two punch of named storms led to a dramatic 7.8 per cent drop in high street footfall last month, according to Springboard’s latest figures.

Retail parks, where shoppers can easily duck from the car into stores, fared better in February with just a 1.1 per cent drop in visitor numbers. But both environments look set to continue to empty out as warnings around the coronavirus outbreak take their toll.

“While 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,” says Diane Wehrle, Insight Director at Springboard.

Heading into the middle of March, Diane says the impact of coronavirus – which last month had yet to be fully understood – is likely to be felt as “consumer become more wary about interacting in public spaces”.

Separately, the British Independent Retailers Association last week called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take “immediate action” in helping independent retailers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

An emergency business fund from the Treasury – hoped to be announced as part of this week’s budget – would be used to support smaller retailers who will be hit by the contagion and are already struggling against business rates and falling footfall.

Andrew Goodacre, the Bira chief executive, said: “We have all seen images from towns and cities in Europe that show deserted high streets and empty shops. The Budget needs to support the economy and we must ensure that the high street receives some of that support.”

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