Pandemic retail footfall gap continues to close in August

by | Sep 2, 2021

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Visits to shops improved in August by around a quarter, according to fresh data released on Thursday, with footfall being 18.6% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019 in August, compared to the 24.2% gap in July.

Retail analysis outfit Springboard said the gap from the 2019 footfall level reduced to less than 20% for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Footfall declined from 2019 by 23.5% in high streets, 24% in shopping centres, and just 2.4% in retail parks, with the popularity of domestic holidays, or ‘staycations’, as well as so-called ‘daycations’ in August bolstering footfall, particularly in high streets.

Footfall in central London in August was 38% below the 2019 level, although it strengthened considerably from the 50.4% gap in July, and was expected to continue to do so in September.

In large cities outside of the capital, the improvement in footfall in August was nearly double that in smaller high streets, putting them at a comparable level to 2019 for the first time.

August’s footfall reflected the findings of the Springboard UK Retail Consumer Report for August, which identified that 89% of consumers felt “some degree of comfort” in visiting retail destinations, and 50% were “completely comfortable” in making trips.

Springboard said 47% of UK consumers visited bricks and mortar destinations at least once a week, “far more” than in the United States, where just 28% of consumers do.

It said that, on the basis that “nothing untoward” occurred and restrictions were not put back in place, it appeared to be a “reasonable expectation” that, by the end of the year, footfall would be just 10% to 15% below pre-pandemic levels.

“It seems that the popularity of staycations and daycations in August bolstered footfall activity, particularly in high streets,” said Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle.

“Although the lack of office workers and overseas tourists continued to impact central London, with footfall in August 38% below the 2019 level, it strengthened considerably from -50.4% in July and is expected to continue to do so in September.

“Despite restrictions being lifted for overseas travel, it is clear that Brits chose to stay home for the summer which gave a welcome boost to high streets and particularly those that are attractive visitor destinations such as coastal and historic towns.”

Wehrle said the boost put bricks-and-mortar retail in “a good place” at what was the start of the fourth quarter, leading up to the peak trading period of the year ahead of Christmas.

“On the basis that nothing untoward occurs and restrictions are not put back in place, it appears to be a reasonable expectation that by the end of the year footfall will be just 10% to 15% below the pre-pandemic level.”

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