Retail footfall stymied by multiple factors

Footfall for UK retailers remains at a standstill according to recent figures from the British Retail Consortium. A range of factors – including unpredictable weather, COVID concerns, and the distraction of major sporting events – have combined to keep customer volumes down.

Covering the four weeks from 4 July to 31 July 2021, the BRC figures take account of the turbulent nature of 2020 for retail, which was closed for significant periods due to the pandemic restrictions. To make meaningful comparisons to changes in footfall, its 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic), meaning that 2021 figures are considered on a year-on-two-years (Yo2Y) basis.

According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data, total UK Footfall decreased by 28.0% in July (Yo2Y), with a 0.4 percentage point decrease from June. This is below the three-month average decline of 27.7%.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “After improvements in footfall in the early part of 2021, the situation has plateaued with little change in footfall levels for a third month in a row. The turbulent weather, with initial heatwaves giving over to torrential rain, appears to have dampened the mood for shopping in July, with a particularly pronounced fall in footfall at retail parks.”

But she added that the last week of July offered a glimmer of hope for retailers as the easing of restrictions lead to the best weekly performance of 2021. “Retailers hope this trend will continue as the rise of vaccinations and falling coronavirus case numbers boosts consumer confidence.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “With July’s wet weather dampening shoppers’ spirits, High Street footfall stayed subdued as consumers remained cautious. Even ‘Freedom Day’ failed to significantly shift the dial on shopper counts, perhaps losing some of its shine to the EURO’s which brought forward shopping and socialising trips to earlier in the month.

He added that Freedom Day may also have split consumer confidence, with those welcoming new-found freedoms increasing the frequency of their shopping trips, while those concerned about the relaxation of restrictions on social distancing and mask-wearing becoming more inclined to stay away.

“However, while footfall performance was flat compared to June, the trajectory in the second half of July gave cause for more cautious optimism,” said Sumpter. “Weekend shopper counts improved by 7% week-on-week following Freedom Day. Retailers will now be hoping caution will give way to growing consumer confidence so that they can capitalise on summer trading.”

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