Shoppers were allowed to return to the high street in June as stores began to reopen in England and Northern Ireland, but figures show that few chose to do so. Retail footfall collapsed by 65% compared with the same month last year, according to research by data company Springboard.
The latest figures are an improvement on the 73% year-on-year decline in May, but highlight the challenges facing retailers and hospitality companies as they try to encourage worried customers to return as the coronavirus lockdown eases. At the same time online shopping has soared, as consumers browse and order from the comfort and safety of their home.
Retailers have cut thousands of jobs in response to the drop in high street, mall and retail park shopping. Last week, John Lewis and Boots cut 5,300 jobs in total and announced permanent store closures.
Retail is not the only sector struggling to recover from the coronavirus crisis, as underlined by the decision of hospitality chain the Restaurant Group (TRG) to keep about one in 10 of its restaurants and pubs closed this year. The owner of chains including Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s blamed persistently weak footfall.
The Springboard figures show overall footfall including high street, shopping centres and retail parks fell by 57% in June 2020 compared with June 2019. The decline was sharpest on high streets, down 65%.
Consumers had more confidence to return to retail parks in the month from 31 May to 4 July, where footfall was 32% lower compared with the same period in 2019. In shopping centres footfall declined by 62%.
Retail parks, usually accessed by car, are generally home to food and homeware stores which remained open during the shutdown. Located out-of-town, retail parks often contain larger, more spacious stores, which are more appealing to shoppers as it allows them to avoid close contact with others, and Springboard expects these locations to remain popular while physical distancing remains in place.