BRC says footfall is recovering ground as shops reopen

The BRC-ShopperTrak data published covers the five weeks 31 May to 4 July 2020

Written by Georgie Dobie

Posted 14.07.2020 | Retail

BRC says footfall is recovering ground as shops reopen thumbnail

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has issued a report on BRC-ShopperTrak footfall data covering the five weeks between 31 May and 4 July.

The reopening of ‘non-essential’ shops has varied from one country to the next in the UK. In Northern Ireland, ‘non-essential’ shops could reopen from 12 June; in England they were able to reopen from 15 June. As such, the BRC has provided details of the split between the first two weeks (pre-lockdown) and remaining three weeks (post-lockdown).  

Across this five-week period, the decline in footfall was largest in Scotland, which only reopened in the final week of June, at 78.5 per cent. Northern Ireland, which reopened first (12 June), saw the shallowest decline of 56.9 per cent. 

Looking at the UK as a whole, the data reflected a decrease of 62.6 per cent in footfall in June year-on-year, as lockdown restrictions continued to ease, with a 19 percentage point improvement from May. In the first two weeks, the footfall decline averaged 77.1 per cent, improving to 53.3 per cent in the remaining three weeks once all stores were allowed to open in England and Northern Ireland. 

The BRC also looked at how the type of shopping location had impacted footfall during the five weeks covering 31 May to 4 July. 

Footfall on high streets declined by 64.5 per cent year-on-year. As non-essential stores began to reopen, consumers had more reasons to visit high streets. In the final three weeks, the average decline was 58.4 per cent, shallower than the 74.5 per cent decline seen in the first two weeks of the month. 

Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 33.8 per cent year-on-year. Wider open spaces, a higher proportion of supermarkets and larger stores quicker to reopen helped to shelter retail parks from a steeper decline. The average decline in the first two weeks was 45.1 per cent, easing to 26.3 per cent in the remaining three weeks. 

And finally, shopping centre footfall declined by 68.3 per cent year-on-year. They were the most negatively affected location, partly due to enclosed spaces making social distancing more of a challenge. The footfall average decline in the first two weeks was 81.4 per cent, improving to 59.6 per cent in the remaining three weeks. 

Speaking of the footfall findings, Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC chief-executive, said: “With lockdown measures easing, consumers are slowly re-emerging onto their high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. Footfall levels are still well below pre-coronavirus levels; however, the decline was softer than it was in May thanks to the reopening of non-essential retail stores on 15 June. Retail parks have performed the best because they have a broad mix of retailers, more space and on-site parking, however, high streets and shopping centres are quickly catching up. UK recovery has been sluggish, especially compared with European standards, but retailers with stores remain hopeful that the reopening of hospitality will provide a welcome boost. 

“The Chancellor’s economic update earlier this week provided critical interventions to protect jobs and incomes for households across the UK. We hope that some of the generous measures taken to support the hospitality industry will benefit footfall for retailers who are in close proximity to restaurants, bars and cafés. However, unless footfall returns to UK streets, Government must be prepared to step in and take further action to boost demand, such as widening the VAT cut to include retail goods.” 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA of ShopperTrak, said: “It really was a month of two halves with footfall down 80 per cent at the start of June before rising significantly post re-opening, though still far down on last year. It’s too early to say if the re-opening of pubs and restaurants will help significantly boost retail footfall, but the UK was the last amongst its European peers to re-open doors and is also seeing the slowest rate of recovery. 

“In a time of purposeful shopping, footfall has a totally new value, but perhaps the biggest challenge currently is dealing with every customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. The most effective retailers are using footfall data to allow customers to know the best time to visit to avoid queues. As customers begin to get used to new shopping practices, retailers will be working hard to ensure they have the right number of staff available at the right times.” 

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