Visits to UK stores indicated pent-up demand for physical shopping in March as footfall increased at all venue types during what should be the last month of full lockdown, a survey showed.
In high streets the annual decline in footfall improved to 58.4% in the final week of March from 65.9% in week one, Springboard said. In shopping centres the decline shrank to 62.5% from 69% and the deficit at retail parks halved to 14.8% from 29.8%.
The improvement happened with non-essential stores remaining shut throughout the month. Under the government’s plans those shops will be allowed to reopen from 12 April. Some economists expect the UK to go on a spending spree using money saved during the pandemic.
Compared with a year earlier, footfall improved to -28.1% in March from -61% but the figure was distorted by the anniversary of the first lockdown falling in the penultimate week of the month. Footfall was 55.2% lower than March 2019, which is a better guide, Springboard said.
“Retail parks continued to be the clear winners outperforming high street and shopping centres which is not at all surprising given that food stores, DIY stores and garden centres continue to trade whilst all non-essential stores remain closed,” Diane Wehrle, a director at Springboard, said. “Since the start of 2021 Springboard identified the degree of pent up demand from shoppers for bricks and mortar stores, and this was ever more evident in the results for March 2021.”
Footfall will jump by 48% in the first week after non-essential retail reopens, 10% the following week and at a slower rate in subsequent weeks, Springboard predicted.