Shoppers are returning to UK high streets as lockdown measures ease and non-essential retail reopens, industry data showed on Friday.
According to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ footfall monitor, which compares 2020 to 2019 to strip out the effect of the pandemic, total UK footfall decreased 40.0% in April. That was, however, a 28.7 percentage point improvement on March 2021, and was above the three-month average decline of 59.2%.
Footfall on high streets was down 43.9% in April, also up on the three-month average decline, of 61.2%. Retail parks reported a 30.5% fall in footfall while shopping centres were off 35.4%.
In April 2020, all retail save for supermarkets and some convenience stores was closed. This year, however, non-essential retail has been allowed to reopen from 12 April.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “With the easing of restrictions on retail and some hospitality, consumers have been returning to their local high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.”
But she added: “It is unlikely we will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of footfall anytime soon, as social distancing measures naturally restrict retailers’ capacity.
“Growing consumer demand and footfall in the months ahead will be vital for the survival of many retailers, as they start to see costs increasing as stores reopen and colleagues return from furlough. With full business rates relief ending in England in June, the ongoing rates review needs to deliver on its objectives.”
Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic Solutions’ retail consultant EMEA, said: “April’s reopening of retail saw a welcome boost for the high street. While footfall still remains 40% down compared to pre-pandemic levels, consumer demand signals for a return to in-store shopping were promising: shoppers happily braved long queues to get back in store and shop their favourite brands in real life.
“Retailers will be hoping that the lift in shopper traffic seen during the first few weeks of unlocking can be sustained past pent-up demand to fuel long-term recovery.”