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Post-pandemic return to in-store shopping weakens, slightly, in April

Image: Anna Menthe/Shutterstock

The post-pandemic return to in-store shopping appears to have weakened slightly in April, the latest figures suggest.

The number of people visiting UK shops in April 2022 was 15.9% below the same time in pre-pandemic 2019, Springboard data suggests. That’s 0.6 percentage points below the previous month, March (-15.3%). Footfall was lower in April than in 2019 across all types of retail location, with shopping centres (-20.3%) hardest hit, followed by high streets (-18.5%). Retail parks (-5.3%) were closest to returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Footfall also remains well ahead of last year, when non-essential shops were closed for much of April. It was up by more than a quarter (+28.6%) in April 2022 compared to last year, with more people visiting every type of location, including high streets (+39%), shopping centres (+32.4%) and retail parks (+2.3%).

In Easter week, footfall was 9.1% higher than the previous week, but in the other three weeks of the month the figure was down by an average 1.1%.

However, Springboard’s town centre sales tracker suggests that in-store sales remained in positive territory in April, with increases in categories including jewellery (+16.7%) and department stores (+9.7%), food and drinks (+5.9%) and fashion (+3.7%) compared to 2019.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says: “It seems that whilst consumer activity in stores and destinations is not bouncing back to the pre- pandemic level, those consumers who remain insulated from increasing cost of living pressures are still spending, undoubtedly supported by the fact that many will have not had the opportunity to shop in store since the start of the pandemic and have additional savings available to them.

“The issue for retail is whether the result for April is a precursor to a contraction in retail consumer activity over the forthcoming months, as strong inflationary pressures start to hit household budgets that are forecast to become of far greater significance as we move through 2022.”

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