UK footfall declined less severely in May ahead of retail reopening

BRC data covering the four weeks 3 – 30 May 2020 found that UK footfall declined less severely in retail locations than in April, as more categories of shops were allowed to reopen; though shopping centres remained the most negatively affected location

Written by Georgie Dobie

Posted 16.06.2020 | Retail

UK footfall declined less severely in May ahead of retail reopening thumbnail

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has shared data it collected in May, covering the four weeks 3 – 30 May 2020. 

While the footfall figures found that UK footfall decreased by 81.6 per cent in May, compared with the same period in 2019, due to the mandatory lockdown, this was a shallower decline than that seen in April. This is due to the fact that more categories of shops could reopen, including garden centres and homeware shops.

Footfall on high streets declined by 77.8 per cent YoY; however, the decline was steepest at shopping centres – down by 84.9 per cent YoY – partly due to enclosed spaces making social distancing more of a challenge.

Meanwhile, thanks to wider open spaces in comparison to other locations and a higher proportion of supermarkets, retail parks were sheltered from a steeper decline – down 55.0 per cent YoY.

Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC chief-executive, said: “The second month of lockdown has continued to show a significantly reduced level of footfall in all retail locations. The decline was less severe than April as more retailers, including garden centres and homeware shops, began to reopen, though the vast majority of stores remained closed.

“Retail Parks, with more supermarkets and essential stores on their sites, saw a shallower decline in footfall while high streets and shopping centres remained massively down on the previous year.

“Other countries that have lifted their lockdown have seen footfall rise by around 15-25 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.

“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. 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 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. As they return to serving the country, there is still a risk that many physical shops could end up closing their doors again – only this time, permanently.”

Source: BRC 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant, EMEA of ShopperTrak, said: “There are no real surprises for May as footfall has remained over 80 per cent down overall. Much like April, retail parks have fared better than other formats, down just 55 per cent, with the high street down almost 78 per cent and shopping centres 85 per cent. Compared to other European countries – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – the UK will be the last to start its recovery process, having already had the longest disruption.

“All eyes are on the rest of retail now as doors start to open on 15 June. 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.

“Retailers will have to adapt quickly on how to manage social distancing and site occupancy levels, and give consumers comfort as they start to come back. 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. There are certainly tough times still ahead, but with our shops reopening we are one step closer to normality, and we welcome that.”

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