Jul 8, 2021
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UK retail footfall struggles, businesses can't wait for 'Freedom Day' boost

Jul 8, 2021

‘Freedom Day’, when England completely opens up on 19 July, can’t come quick enough. That’s because there was a mixture of both good and not-so-good news on the UK retail footfall front on Thursday.

Photo: Nigel Taylor

On the upside, visits across all retail destinations for the five-week period spanning 31 May- 4 July continued to strengthen, with June delivering the strongest result since the start of the pandemic, the latest Springboard figures showed.

But although footfall jumped in first week of June, it then stagnated as the long-awaited Freedom Day was delayed.

“This was undoubtedly a reflection of the lack of impetus for consumers to shop, following the government’s announcement in the delay of Freedom Day”, noted Springboard.  “This was heightened by the continued restrictions and limitations on overseas travel, which also reduced the need to shop for summer fashion in advance of overseas holidays”.

And footfall for June was still 22.2% below the pre-pandemic 2019 level, although it was an improvement on the -27.5% recorded in May.

The largest five-week gains in footfall were made in high streets which continued to benefit from the reopening of indoor hospitality, and which improved by a third in June. But footfall declined from 2019 by 27.2% in high streets, 29.1% in shopping centres and 4.1% in retail parks. 

Any gains made were largely focused on the first week of the month, which included the early spring Bank Holiday when the weather was hot and coincided with the half-term school break. In that week alone, footfall across all destinations improved to 14.5% below the 2019 level from -26.8% in the week before. 

In the South West — which this year has been the “go to” destination for staycations — footfall was just 1.8% below the 2019 level in the first week of the month. 

“The opportunity for bricks and mortar retail to attract back consumers is significant following the removal of restrictions set for 19 July”, said Diane Wehrle, Marketing & Insights director for Springboard. 

“The greater freedoms this offers — coinciding with the school summer holiday period — is likely to deliver a fresh incentive for consumers to visit bricks and mortar destinations”.

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