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2020 footfall dropped to the lowest recorded level

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

25 Jan 2021

Retail footfall in the UK dropped to a record low in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic meant that non-essential retailers were forced to close for a total of 18 weeks, according to data from Springboard.

Footfall was 39.1 percent lower in 2020, compared to 2019, with Springboard reporting only a “marginal difference” between the individual UK nations.

In its annual footfall review, titled ‘The Year That Was 2020’ it also added that retail footfall plummeted by 75.1 percent in the week after the nation went into lockdown on March 23, 2020, a level never previously recorded by Springboard.

Pre Covid-19 (up to mid-March), footfall declined by 2.6 percent, but from then on the decline in footfall was of an “unprecedented magnitude,” explained Springboard, ranging from between a drop of 35 percent and 71.4 percent. The biggest drop in footfall was in week 16, April 16, during lockdown 1, with the largest uplift seen in week 25, June 14 when non-essential retail stores reopened in England.

Retail parks proved the most resilient locations out of the three destination types. Footfall at retail parks in 2020 reported an overall drop of 23 percent, compared to a 41.9 percent fall for shopping centres and a 45.2 percent fall on the high street.

Springboard’s annual footfall review shares the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on retail

As the nation started to work from home from March onwards and social distancing and the message to ‘stay local’ became a norm, local high streets got a new lease of life with market towns, coastal towns and historic towns proving to be “more resilient” than other locations.

Regional cities recorded drops up to 58 percent in comparison to market towns down by 36.6 percent, coastal towns fell by 37.4 percent and historic towns saw a decrease of 44.2 percent.

This rise in localism was at the expense of Central London, which was the hardest hit of a town or single location with a drop in footfall from 2019 of 58.7 percent. This is due to the loss of not only the working population who stayed local but also the immediate drop in domestic visitors and overseas tourists, added Springboard.

The overall loss of footfall across the UK unsurprisingly translated into a huge decline in sales in bricks and mortar stores by 20 percent in 2020 compared with a decline of just 3 percent in 2019. With bricks and mortar non-essential retailers closed, online spending increased “significantly” from representing 19.1 percent of total retail spending in 2019 to account for 27.4 percent of total retail spend in 2020.

Springboard has said that bricks and mortar stores and retail destinations should “not be written off”. Post lockdown 1 and 2, its data highlighted consumers flocking back into shops as footfall rose by 40.3 percent in the first week following the easing of restrictions of both Lockdown 1 and Lockdown 2.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said in a statement: “To use the word “unprecedented” truly underplays the impact that Covid-19 has had on the retail industry as businesses large and small fought for survival. However, as the vaccine is successfully rolled out across the UK in 2021, this offers hope for retailers in the second half of the year, albeit with social distancing measures still in place.

“If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is the need we all have for human interaction and sensory satisfaction, and this is likely to drive visits and spend in stores and destinations. What is likely to continue to change in 2021 is the types of destinations that consumers visit and the frequency and when they do so, and much of this change will be driven by the shift to home working.”

Image: FashionUnited