Coronavirus

Reopening is ‘no magic bullet’ for retail, says BRC

Reopening is “no magic bullet” for retail, the British Retail Consortium has warned despite UK footfall improving since lockdown restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

The BRC’s footfall tracker found that UK footfall decreased 53.4% year-on-year during the second week of reopening in England and NI. This is compared to a decrease of 81.6% year on year for the month of May.

Footfall on high streets declined by 58.1% year on year, compared with a decrease of 77.8% year on year for the month of May.

Retail Parks saw arguably the biggest improvement as footfall decreased by 28.4% year on year compared with a decrease of 55% year on year for the month of May.

In addition, shopping centre footfall declined by 60.7% year on year compared with 84.9% the previous year.

It also found that total retail footfall for Monday to Saturday increased 7.7% week on week.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of British Retail Consortium, said that while the figures show improvement across all areas it is “unlikely” that footfall is to return to pre-pandemic levels “anytime soon”.

She said: “Retailers will welcome the rise in footfall during the second week since lockdown was lifted in England. Retail parks continue to outperform other shopping locations, benefiting from ease of parking and the larger proportion of supermarkets. Nonetheless, reopening is no magic bullet. Low consumer confidence and social distancing mean footfall is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels any time soon.

“Without further increases in demand to drive consumer spending, many retailers will struggle to make ends meet, putting stores and jobs at risk. Government must consider ways to further stimulate the economy if it is to protect jobs, and reinvigorate our high streets and shopping centres.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA of ShopperTrak, said: “Last week we saw the UK continue its retail recovery, with Wales joining England and Northern Ireland reopening its shops. Monday sees Scotland joining the rest of the UK, with its own steady and restricted approach.

“The High Street and Shopping Centres showed signs of improvement and are starting to catch up with Retail Parks, albeit with some way to go. Monday and Tuesday may have benefitted from a spill over of consumer enthusiasm, but this eased off until Saturday, which saw a 16.4% week on week hike.”

He added: “Whilst UK footfall is heading in the right direction, early indications show that we’re following European trends, but slightly behind pace.

“The coming weeks will be critical. It may be too early to accurately predict how long this recovery will be, or where it’s eventually heading, but most retailers are doing all within their powers to bring back a confidence and enthusiasm for shopping.”

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