The nationwide and mandatory lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has seen the UK retail industry suffer its worst month on record in terms of footfall.
According to the latest footfall monitor from BRC-Shoppertrak, overall retail footfall nose dive by 84.7 per cent in April – a record decline for the industry that has seen unprecedented challenges during the month.
Shopping centre footfall declined 87.8 per cent year-on-year, making it the worst-affected retail location category, partly due to enclosed spaces making social distancing more of a challenge.
Faring slightly better than shopping centres due to rise in visitors to local convenience stores were high streets, which saw footfall decline by 81.8 per cent year-on-year.
However, retail parks saw footfall decrease by 62.4 per cent year-on-year, with wider open spaces in comparison to other locations and a higher proportion of supermarkets offsetting it from a steeper decline.
“As expected, lockdown has dramatically cut footfall traffic across retail locations, with the majority of physical stores closed to the public,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“The fall has been slightly less dramatic in retail parks where a high proportion of supermarkets and other essential stores have remained open, slightly mitigating the overall reduction in footfall.
“With lower footfall likely to continue, along with a corresponding fall in sales, and with demand likely to remain low, many retailers will not return to normal trading for some time, even when they are allowed to reopen.
“We will see an acceleration of many trends seen prior to the coronavirus pandemic – lower footfall as many consumers choose to browse digitally, and a corresponding rise in online sales.
“These changes are requiring retailers to adapt quickly so that the industry can meet the needs of modern consumers and deal with the challenges the pandemic is presenting.
“Ultimately, the very nature of many retail jobs will change, with impressive customer service and the effective use of technology becomes even more vital.”
Shoppertrak UK general manager Ian Muir said: “With all but essential retail closed during lockdown, last month’s lacklustre footfall levels were inevitable.
“Looking ahead to June and the gradual and measured reopening of shops, retailers will need to navigate a new, and potentially long-lasting, era of cautious consumerism.
“Retailers will now be required to deliver in-store experiences that are both safe and frictionless; safety will need to be reassuringly visible but executed as seamlessly as possible – a feat that is only achievable through combining engaged store associates and well-applied data. Achieving these newly accelerated demands on the store will be key in reassuring shoppers and regaining footfall into the future.
“Evidence of this new cautious consumerism can be seen in Germany’s footfall figures, with the reopening of its retail stores starting in mid-April.
“German footfall at the beginning of the month (week 15) was down at -98.3 per cent year-on-year, but by the end of April (week 18) it had improved by 10.7 percentage points to -87.6 per cent.
“While shopper traffic was still down, these green shoots of slow retail recovery may indicate what lies ahead for the UK.”
Source – Retailgazette.co.uk