The shape of retail over Easter 2020 is set to be very different from previous years. Normally, the warm weather predicted for the four-day Easter weekend would promise strong in-store business for retailers in what is, says retail intelligence specialist Springboard, the second most important trading period the year, after Christmas. But this year the hope is that most people will stay at home. All but essential shops will be closed over the weekend as part of the lockdown against the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, according to new Springboard figures for the week starting March 29, the number of visits to UK bricks and mortar shops was down by 81.4% compared to the same time last year. That came after a 75.1% fall in the week of March 22.
But there are now fears, warns Springboard, that warmer weather over the weekend will bring more people out. Last weekend, for example, footfall rose compared to the previous weekend, as sunny weather brought shoppers out on both Saturday (+9.5%) and Sunday (+21.3%). On Sunday, the jump was particularly noticeable in London (+51.4%). The Easter weekend is generally a high-footfall period: last year, Easter Saturday store visits were 51% higher than on August bank holiday and 61% higher than on Boxing Day. Easter Monday is generally the day with the lowest footfall over Easter, but last year figures were just 0.2% lower than on August Bank Holiday.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard said: “It is impossible to draw any real comparison between Easter this year and Easter in preceding years - we have never been beset with such swathing restrictions that have impacted the entire economy and restricted spending so comprehensively.”
Throughout the full 2020 year, says Wehrle, footfall is likely to fall to its lowest level since records began in 2009. When Springboard questioned businesses, 90% said it would be six months at least before their business returns to pre-coronavirus levels, and 40% believe it will be more than 12 months. Most retailers continue to sell online but Springboard points to huge variations in the way that shoppers are buying and suggests that overall, the value of online spending is simply staying level with the same period in 2019.
Meanwhile, shopping comparison site Finder.com suggests that shoppers will spend £198bn less over Easter than they did last year. Its research suggests that customers plans to spend an average of £27.66 over the period, down by £2.48 (8%), from £30.14 in 2019. That adds up to spending £902m - down from £1.1bn in 2019.
Fewer shoppers, it says, will spend on gifts and chocolates as they feel the financial pressures of coronavirus.
Georgia-Rose Johnson, shopping expert at finder.com said: “The drop in those celebrating and spending money around Easter this year is likely to be caused by social distancing and lockdown measures put in place by the government to combat the coronavirus pandemic. However, Brits could also be growing wise to the high markups on Easter eggs, seasonal temptations and gifts, hence the increase in those who are celebrating without spending.”
Finder.com questioned 2,000 UK adults via Onepoll in March 2020.