While shopper traffic at U.K. stores is still far below what it was pre-pandemic, footfall is at least starting to show signs of recovery.
For the week of March 21, footfall rose 6.6 percent from the prior seven-day period. That also represents a 68.1 percent increase from the comparable week in 2020 during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, but still a 57.3 percent decline from the same period in 2019.
“Despite the significant gap in activity levels from 2019, footfall once again rose last week from the week before as it has done so in eight of the past nine weeks,” Diane Wehrle, insights director at U.K. retail data firm Springboard, said. “However, the uplift was much larger last week, and this was primarily a result of far greater footfall in retail parks and shopping centres; the rise in retail parks most likely due to shoppers upgrading their gardens in advance of the relaxation of restrictions this week.”
Springboard said footfall in high streets continued to see steady gains. The latest 6.6 percent rise was on top of a 4 percent increase from the week before. “However, the biggest difference was in retail parks and shopping centres; in retail parks a decline in footfall of 4.4 percent two weeks ago shifted to a rise of 9 percent last week as shoppers refreshed their gardens in readiness for the opportunity to meet friends and family outdoors,” it said. “Footfall in shopping centres also shifted upward, from a drop of 2.3 percent two weeks ago to a rise of 4.3 percent last week.”
Foot traffic will likely increase in the week ahead, by possibly as much as 15 percent as restrictions relax, along with the forecast for warmer weather for much of the U.K., Springboard said. While that is expected to narrow the gap between 2021 and 2019 levels, the big gulf between current and pre-pandemic figures will decrease further once non-essential stores are able to reopen. The U.K. government currently has a timetable that could see non-essential stores begin reopening on April 12, as long as virus trends maintain a positive trajectory.
For the week beginning March 21, England saw footfall rise 6.9 percent, while foot traffic in Wales shot up 11.5 percent. Scotland saw a dip in footfall by 1.6 percent, while Northern Ireland saw a slight gain at up 1.4 percent.