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PEAK 2020 Visitors return to high streets – but footfall and planned spending both still appear to be down on last year

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InternetRetailing rounds up the latest news, insights and trends on how retailers and customers are responding to peak trading this year. Christmas shopping is very different this year, with non-essential shops in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some parts of Scotland in lockdown at different points in November and early December. As of December 11, shops in all areas are now open.

Shoppers return to stores in the run-up to Christmas

Shoppers have returned to the high street to buy over the last week, new figures suggest. 

Footfall rose by 19.5% across all UK retail destinations compared to the previous week, with shopping centres (+26.3%) and high streets (+21.2%) benefitting in particular. Retail parks saw footfall rise rise by 9%, although in shopping parks dominated by high street retailers, footfall was up by 15.5%. The biggest beneficiaries were the largest UK shopping centres (+35.5%). 

The rise comes as Christmas approaches and as shoppers in England and Wales are now able to visit non-essential shops following lockdowns in November. 

But while the lift is an improvement on the previous week, footfall is still well down on last year. Across all destinations footfall is down by 29.9% on the same week last year, as visitors to high streets (-38.1%) and shopping centres (-32.2%) are still down. Visitors to retail parks, however, are just 8.6% down on last year. 

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, says: “In the second week following the reopening of non-essential retail stores footfall across UK retail destinations continued to rise. The uplift was smaller than in the first week, but it was still significantly greater than in the second week following the reopening of retail in June, indicating the desire of shoppers to visit bricks and mortar stores in the run up to Christmas. The demand by shoppers to visit retail destinations is highlighted by the contrast with this week in 2019 when footfall declined, following a surge in demand in the previous two weeks, most likely as a result of Black Friday. 

“By far the greatest rises occurred in shopping centres and high streets, with the largest shopping centres being the most in demand by shoppers. Whilst the increase in footfall was more modest in retail parks we know they have consistently retained far more footfall largely due to the presence of food stores, and so start from a much higher base. However, despite the continuing increase in footfall from the week before, footfall remains substantially below the 2019 level.” 

Shoppers plan to spend £2.3bn less on Christmas this year than in 2019

More than a third (37%) of shoppers say plan to spend less than they did last year – to the tune of £2.3bn, according to The Nottingham building society. Nearly half (46%) of the 1,009 people questioned for the research in October say they will spend the same amount, while 6% aims to spend more. Cutting the level of spending could lead to less waste, say researchers, who found that one in four say they have one or more presents from last Christmas that they have yet to use. One in five say they have given away presents from last year that they did not need or want, while 8% have given away three or more presents. 

Will Davies, head of propositions at The Nottingham, says: “Our research shows that  because of the coronavirus crisis, people will be focusing more on the true meaning of Christmas this year, and there will be less spent on presents. However, given that our findings reveal the true extent of how many unwanted presents people receive at Christmas, there will hopefully be fewer of these this festive season.”

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