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Foot Traffic Roaring Back in the US, UK and France

Consumers are getting to back to their regular activities, new data shows, and that includes shopping in stores.

In the United Kingdom, last week’s footfall jumped 11.6 percent from the prior week, according to Springboard, which documented stronger gains for high streets (17.4 percent) versus shopping centers (8.7 percent). Retail parks lagged with a smaller 2.3 percent uptick in foot traffic, the data firm added, though it found that visits to Central London were just 39.5 percent off from 2019 while the gap was smaller for regional cities at 12.9 percent below two-year-ago-levels.

What’s more, coastal and historical town centers saw “significantly greater” gains, with the former up 37.1 percent and the latter attracting 24.8 percent more footfall, it added. The South West benefited the most as visitors flocked to resorts, with an 18.8 percent gain overall and a 30.8 percent increase in high streets in those areas. In general, large city centers saw increases too, up 23.8 percent in Central London and up 10.4 percent in city centers elsewhere in the U.K.

“A combination of the late May bank holiday, incredible weather and the school half term holiday had a hugely beneficial effect on customer activity in UK retail destinations last week; it not only led to the greatest weekly increase in footfall since the reopening of non-essential retail in April, but also the most modest annual decline since the start of the pandemic,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director, referring to the April 12 date that sellers of fashion and other non-critical goods were permitted to resume business.

Staycations fueled the increase in footfall at coastal towns, with the increase outperforming the same week two years ago on the back of bank holiday falling earlier on the calendar.

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“Whilst the attraction of coastal and historic towns to visitors meant they benefited the most last week, there was still a significant rise in footfall in Central London and in other regional cities across the UK,” Wehrle said, adding that local high streets saw more modest increases.

In France, one of France’s top real estate companies with a 3.3 billion euro ($4.02 billion) portfolio and 2,138 leases reported strong reopening numbers.

Large centers and main shopping centers in France saw gains last month after most stores were able to re-open on May 19 following nearly four months of Covid closures, Mercialys said.

Mercialys said footfall growth from May 19 through month’s end grew almost 15 percent versus the same period in 2020, and is “already up to over 95 percent of the activity levels seen for the same normalized period in 2019.”

Initial input from retailers seems to suggest a positive response to early sales.

“Footfall figures with this reopening have been very positive across Mercialys’ portfolio, as for the entire retail sector in France,” it said. “The appeal of physical retail is demonstrated by this trend, which had already characterized the reopening periods in May and November 2020.” Mercialys credited the “extensive selection, its immediate availability, the reopening of terraces and the corresponding social contact, which was so missed during the lockdown periods,” as fueling the positive reopening response.

In the U.S., data scientists at Zenreach said June marks another month of increases in foot traffic and in-store visits to retail, restaurants and entertainment venues, with nationwide foot traffic rising 6 percent from last month and 44 percent since the start of the year.

“With indoor mask mandates starting to lift, Zenreach expects these numbers will continue to increase. It would not surprise me if nationwide foot traffic reaches a more than 55% lift—since January 1st, 2021—within the next three months,” said Megan Wintersteen, Zenreach vice president of marketing, referencing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to end its recommendation for people in the U.S. to wear face masks and relax six-foot guidelines for fully vaccinated consumers. Some restrictions remain in place where required by law.

Since Jan. 1, the San Diego metro area has seen the strongest rise in foot traffic, up 172.68 percent, followed by the Denver area (up 134.62 percent), and California’s San Jose region (up 123.97 percent).

Traffic is up 82.85 percent in the New York metro area, including northern New Jersey’s biggest cities and Pennsylvania, according to Zenreach, which reported increases in the Boston area (77.06 percent), the greater D.C. region, including West Virginia (57.08 percent), and the tourist-dependent Orlando area (28.72 percent).