UK shoppers flock to high streets as restrictions ease

Shoppers flocked to bricks and mortar stores in April, industry data published on Thursday showed, as non-essential retail started to reopen.

According to Springboard, retail footfall was 240.8% higher in the four weeks from 4 April to 1 May year-on-year. Compared to pre-pandemic April 2019, it was 32.7% lower, although that was an improvement on March’s 55.2% decline on the same basis.

Against 2019, footfall was down 41.5% on high streets, off 39.0% in shopping centres and 7.4% lower in retail parks. Compared to April 2020, it surged 247.7%, 283.2% and 181.0%, respectively.

Springboard said that the April 2021 data reflected “a substantial boost to footfall following retail reopening and is evidence of significant pent-up demand for bricks and mortar stores.”

In the first week of April, footfall across all retail destinations was down 56.5% on the same period in 2019, but from the second week onwards footfall was on average just 23.7% lower. Non-essential retail reopened in England on 12 April, on 26 April in Scotland and on 30 April in Northern Ireland.

Looking further ahead, Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, said: “With the imminent opening of indoor hospitality in the next two weeks, we are anticipating that the gap between the level of footfall in 2019 and 2021 will narrow further, although the extent to which this occurs will be a function of the degree to which there is a return to office working, the growth in domestic and overseas tourism, and the impact of employment at the end of the furlough scheme in September.”

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