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April footfall improves but still far from pre-Covid levels

By Huw Hughes

7 May 2021

Retail

Image: Pexels

Footfall in the UK has recovered strongly since non-essential stores were permitted to reopen last month, but still remains some way off pre-Covid 2019 levels, new data reveals.

Total UK footfall fell by 40 percent last month compared to two years earlier, according to the latest data from BRC-Sensormatic, which this year compared footfall with 2019 levels to make more meaningful comparisons.

But those levels were still 28.7 percent higher than they were in March 2021, as stores were finally permitted to reopen after months of lockdown. This was above the three-month average decline of 59.2 percent.

Footfall in shopping centres declined by 49.8 percent compared to 2019 levels, while high streets and retail parks saw drops of 43.9 percent and 30.5 percent, respectively.

Breaking it down by country, Northern Ireland saw the steepest footfall decline at 55.4 percent, followed by a 52.1 percent drop in Scotland.

England and Wales, which were the first countries to reopen non-essential stores on April 12, saw the shallowest declines of 38.4 percent and 38.2 percent, respectively.

Growing footfall ‘vital for the survival’ of retailers

Despite improving trends, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of British Retail Consortium (BRC), warned pre-Covid levels are likely still some way off.

“While shops have worked incredibly hard to provide consumers with a safe and enjoyable shopping experience, it is unlikely we will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of footfall anytime soon, as social distancing measures naturally restrict retailers’ capacity,” she said in a release.

Dickinson said growing consumer demand and footfall in the coming months will be “vital for the survival of many retailers” as they start to see costs increasing as stores reopen and colleagues return from furlough.

“With full business rates relief ending in England in June, the ongoing rates review needs to deliver on its objectives to reform the broken rates system and reduce the financial pressures on retailers, otherwise many stores and viable jobs will be under threat,” she said.