UK shoppers have yet to return to high streets – or shopping centres and retail parks – to the extent that they did before Covid-19, the latest footfall figures suggest.
The number of people visiting shops across the UK in June 2022 was 10.5% below the same month in pre-pandemic 2019, according to the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for the month.
The data, covering the five weeks from May 29 to July 2, showed footfall had improved by two percentage points (pp) from the previous month, however, and is still ahead of the three month average decline (-11.8%).
Footfall was also ahead of comparable EU markets including Germany (-19.4%), Italy (-21.6%) and France (-23.5%).
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, says: “The cost-of-living crisis appears to be driving more people to shop around for the best deals both online and in-store, with the number of visits to individual shops rising in June. This was boosted by the Jubilee celebrations and summer heatwave, which more than compensated for the impact of the rail strikes on city centre footfall. However, this has not translated into in-store and online sales, with volumes down significantly in recent months as consumers tightened their belts.
“Rising inflation, particularly soaring energy costs, is limiting customer spending power and damaging consumer confidence. This is only set to worsen in October as the energy price cap rises and the colder weather increases usage. With many people struggling, retailers are doing all they can to support their most vulnerable customers – from expanding value ranges to offering discounts to vulnerable groups, raising staff pay and investing in lower prices for the future.”
Footfall continued to be lowest, compared to 2019, in shopping centres, where it was almost a quarter (-24.1%) lower than three years earlier. It was ahead of more recent trends however, 2.6% ahead of last month’s rate and better than the three month trend (-25.9%).
High street visitor numbers were 13.9% lower than in June 2019 and slightly down on last month (-0.3pp) but an improvement on the three-month average decline (-14.8%). At retail parks, footfall was 8.1% behind 2019, and also down on more recent trends. Visitor numbers were 1.8pp lower than last month, and behind the three month decline (-7%).
The lowest decline compared to 2019 was in England (-9.9%), followed by Wales (-12.7%), Northern Ireland (-14.7%) and Scotland (-15.8%).
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, says: “June delivered a rollercoaster ride for the high street – the highs of the ‘Jubilee Jump’ in footfall where retailers benefitted from the beginning of the month was, in part, derailed by the rail strikes as some shoppers stayed at home to avoid travel disruption. This mixed bag of footfall performance will do little to allay retailers’ concerns as the cost-of-living and inflationary pressures continue to weigh heavy in the public consciousness. Retailers will be hoping that even if consumers shop less frequently, they will be more considered in their purchases to drive up conversion when they do come into store.”