Apr 15, 2020
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Retail parks fare best at Easter despite lockdown-linked footfall plunge

Apr 15, 2020

Shops may remain closed, but specialist footfall tracking companies are still measuring visitor traffic to retail areas and on Wednesday, Springboard said the Easter weekend saw an 83.1% drop in footfall compared to 2019.

Store closures meant plunging footfall over Easter, but coastal towns saw a footfall increase in the warm weather

It added that during March, the overall footfall decline was 41.3% year-on-year. The impact of the government enforced lockdown from coronavirus saw the drop at an average of 61.5% in the final three weeks of March, reaching 81.4% in the very last week.

Easter footfall was 14.5% lower than over the same four days in the previous week. “Despite the warm weather providing a clear temptation for leaving home, the latest figures show that the UK adhered to the government enforced lockdown and stayed at home to save lives and protect the NHS,” it added.

That said, footfall rose 3.7% on Saturday week-on-week, with strong increases in both coastal towns (+14%) and historic towns (+9.5%). That was likely driven by the summer-like temperatures. However, on Monday there was a significant drop in footfall of 24.2% from the previous Monday, most probably aided by the much cooler weather on that day.

Springboard said Easter rounded off an abysmal March performance with the impact of the lockdown having been “immediate and enormous”. 

But while a slow decline accelerated into high-double-digits in the second half of the month, for retail parks the picture was a little more nuanced. 

“The panic-buying that ensued when people realised that lockdown was an increasingly likely prospect, meant that the drop in footfall experienced in the third week of the month in high streets and shopping centres didn't occur until the fourth week in retail parks, and even then the drop was around a third lower due to the need to shop for essentials,” we’re told. 

In the last week of the month, the drop in footfall in retail parks was 15% less than in high streets and shopping centres.

Inevitably, “retail parks will continue to fare better during the lockdown than shopping centres or high streets. The need to shop safely is paramount, and with a premium placed by shoppers on suitable social distancing, large stores situated in more spacious environments are desired, these are most frequently found in retail parks”.

And Springboard is wondering just how the consumer mindset will approach the eventual return to normality. Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at the firm, said: “It is likely that even when we are in recovery, the psychological impact of the pandemic will linger with social distancing continuing to be the new normal for some time to come.  If this were to be the case, retail parks and the space they offer will be a favoured destination for many.”

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