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Visitors to all retail locations stayed low in June, but recovery started once non-essential shops reopened

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The number of people visiting the UK’s shops in June stayed well below the same time last year, but started to show a recovery once non-essential shops started to reopen following the Covid-19 lockdown, new figures suggest.

Visitor numbers to stores are still well below where they were a year ago, the June BRC-ShopperTrak Footfall Monitor suggests, but retail parks appear to be recovering faster than other locations.

Across the UK, footfall fell by 62.6% in June compared to the previous year. That represents a 19 percentage point (pp) improvement from May. The research covered five weeks from May 31 to July 4, and there was a clear change when non-essential shops reopened from June 12 in Northern Ireland and June 15 in England. In the first two weeks of the period, footfall was down by 77.1% But in the following three weeks, it improved to a 53.3% decline. 

Retail parks fared best, with June footfall down by 33.8% year-on-year (YOY). A fall on 45.1% in the first two weeks improved to a fall of 26.3% in the following weeks. 

High street visitor numbers had an annual fall of 64.5% in June. Footfall in the first two weeks was sharply down by 74.5%, but improved to a decline of 58.4% in the final three weeks. 

Worst hit were shopping centres, where June footfall was down by 68.3% YOY. In the first two weeks footfall fell by 81.4%. That improved to 59.6% in the remaining three weeks. 

“With lockdown measures easing, consumers are slowly re-emerging onto their high streets, shopping centres and retail parks,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC). “Footfall levels are still well below pre-coronavirus levels; however the decline was softer than it was in May thanks to the reopening of non-essential retail stores on June 15.

“Retail parks have performed the best because they have a broad mix of retailers, are space and on-site parking, however high streets and shopping centres are quickly catching up. UK recovery has been sluggish, especially compared with European standards but retailers with stores remain hopeful that the reopening of hospitality will provide a welcome boost.”

She said she hoped that measures then to support the hospitality industry would in turn benefit retailers. “However,” she added, “unless footfall returns to UK streets, government must be prepared to step in and take further action to boost demand such as widening the VAT cut to include retail goods.”

Scottish shops reopened in the final weeks of June, and footfall across the country was down by 78.5% in June. Footfall in Northern Ireland was down by 56.9% – the shallowest fall.  

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA at ShopperTrak, said it was a month of two halves and that it was too early to see the effect of pub and restaurant reopenings on retail.

“In a time of purposeful shopping, footfall has a totally new value but perhaps the biggest challenge currently is dealing with every customers as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Sumpter. “The most effective retailers are using footfall data to allow customers to know the best time to visit to avoid queues.”

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