There are predictions today that shoppers will rush back to non-essential shops from June 15, following a weekend spike in high street visitor numbers – and despite the growth of online shopping during lockdown.
Visitor numbers to UK high street shops yesterday were 49% up compared to Easter Monday, new figures suggest. But with predictions of a recovery in visitor numbers once non-essential retail shops are fully able to open from a coronavirus lockdown that started on March 23, came warnings that it might not last long.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director, said: “We anticipate that once stores open on June 15 – despite the rise in online shopping that has been recorded – the evident pent-up demand to go out amongst consumers will absolutely translate into footfall.”
But, she cautioned: “An anticipated spending spike could possibly be short lived, as consumers will be cautious and looking at reining in their spend due to ongoing financial uncertainty in many UK households. Additionally the safety of shoppers and workers will be paramount as announced yesterday by the Prime Minster, so retailers over the coming weeks will need to be working hard to ensure that customer occupancy measures in stores and destinations are in place and carefully managed so that social distancing measures can be implemented successfully.”
The rebound in store visitor numbers came following the reopening of garden centres and many DIY stores. Over the Easter weekend, shoppers were able to visit supermarkets and other essential retailers – but many essential retailers had not yet reopened as they looked to find ways to make shopping safe.
Today’s figures from Springboard suggest high street footfall rose by 49% compared to Easter Monday – April 13. Visits were also up yesterday to retail parks (+28.3%) and shopping centres (29.2%) compared to the same date. Visits across all retail destinations were 39.1% up on Easter Monday, with visits to shops in coastal areas (+61/7%) and historic towns (+58.9%) up still more sharply.
For retail parks, the strongest day was on Saturday May 23, when visitor numbers were 42.2% up on Easter Saturday (April 11). Visits to high streets (+29.8%) and shopping centres (+22.7%) were also up on the same dates, taking overall visits to retail destinations up by 31%. Coastal (28.8%) and historic towns (+36.9%) also saw a rise in visitor numbers. Retail park visitor numbers were also up by 32.4% compared to the previous Saturday, May 9, with less marked rises on high streets (+8.6%), shopping centres (+16.2%), across all retail destinations (+16.2%), coastal towns (+6.9%), and historic towns (+13.3%).
Warm weather is thought to have played a role in the rising visitor numbers, while there may be a sense that shoppers see the lockdown as now more relaxed following the government’s move from a ‘stay at home’ to a ‘stay alert’ message in recent weeks. Shopper numbers rose less sharply in Scotland on Saturday (+9.1% compared to Easter Saturday, -1.8% on Saturday compared to May 9) where the directive remains to stay at home. But Scottish visitor numbers were up by 41.7% on Monday compared to Easter Monday. In Wales, where garden centres can open but the overall message remains to stay at home, visitor numbers were up on Saturday (+17.3% compared to Easter Saturday, +7.3% compared to May 9), and also up strongly on Monday (+35.5% compared to last Monday).
Car showrooms and open air markets are also expected to be open from June 1, given the lower transmission levels associated with outdoors.