Footfall begins ‘journey to recovery’ in May

Consumer footfall may have begun its “long journey to recovery” in the month of May, according to the latest figures from Springboard. 

Whilst footfall dropped by 73.3% in May, this still marked a “marginal improvement” from the month prior, when footfall saw a decline of 80.1% in light of the nationwide lockdown. 

May footfall was reportedly boosted by the month marking the sunniest May since 1957, combined with the two bank holidays that fell at the beginning and end of the period. 

The weeks leading up to each bank holiday saw footfall rise by an average of 12% from the week before, for example, compared with a rise of 5.5% seen in the other two weeks of the month.

According to Springboard, footfall across retail parks strengthened in May, down by only 55.1% against a 68.1% decline in April. This was in part supported by the opening of home stores and garden centres in the middle of the month. 

In addition, footfall in retail parks moved from an annual decline of 59.1% in the first week, to  an annual decline of 50.8% by the last week of May.

Whilst high street footfall declined by 78.2% on average, smaller high streets were the “most resilient” throughout the month, with consumers staying local as lockdown continued.

Footfall on the smallest high streets only saw a decline of 41.4% in the period, while footfall in regional cities plummeted 88.8%, for example. 

The latest Springboard data reportedly reflects a “huge amount of pent up demand” amongst consumers for in-store shopping, as shown by the “monumental queues” at major home stores in the weekend before 1 June.

In addition, the very beginning of June saw footfall down only 42.9%, against the 56.2% decline reported in the first days of May. 

Looking ahead, Springboard said that retail destinations that can best manage customer numbers to ensure social distancing will be the “most demanded” by consumers as “safety during shopping is paramount”.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: “The subject on everyone’s lips is what will the likely success be of the reopening of non-essential retail on 15 June. 

“The limited evidence so far has suggested that despite the growth in online shopping over the past two months, there is a huge amount of pent up demand amongst consumers for bricks and mortar shopping.”

She added: “Inevitably it has been smaller high streets that have been the most resilient as consumers stayed local, with footfall in UK regional cities declining by -88.8% in May compared with -41.4% across the smallest high streets.

“The key trend to be watched over the period of retail reopening in June, and over subsequent months, will be whether this signals the beginning of a new era for local high streets.” 

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