Oxford Street
© Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Shoppers in Oxford Street, London, where footfall has remained 81% lower in June than the previous year.
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.


Comment: Obviously online shopping went up, but it's unlikely it compensated the economic losses caused by the lockdown, this will become even more apparent as the delayed effects begin to bite.


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.


Comment: There will still be a decline in those visiting, which doesn't bode well for the economy. It also goes to show how, thanks to the government propaganda, many are irrationally afraid.


The reopening of non-essential stores in England in mid-June marked a turning point, according to Springboard.

Some shoppers rushed to return to stores in England and northern Ireland after three months of closures, leading to a large spike in footfall (6.6% higher than the previous year) in the first week after reopening, while footfall remained persistently low in Scotland and Wales where non-essential retailers reopened later in June.

However the pent-up demand for shopping did not last and footfall slowed considerably over the following two weeks.

Lengthy queues to enter stores, which are limiting customer numbers, and a restricted shopping experience, where changing rooms remain closed, could have contributed to the sudden drop in footfall, said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

"This is concerning for the economic recovery path of bricks-and-mortar retail who are heavily reliant on customer experience," Wehrle added.


Comment: Unsurprisingly, forcing shops to treat customers like lepers doesn't contribute to a pleasant shopping experience: UK govt rules muzzles mandatory for going to the shops, instructs police to issue fines for non-compliance


High streets and shopping centres, many of which are located in city and town centres, have struggled to bring back customers. In normal times, they rely on footfall from a mix of people, including workers, students, tourists and local residents.

The absence of these consumers, along with the government's recommendation only to use public transport where essential, mean that footfall and sales will be affected for longer in these locations.

The clearest example of this trend is seen in central London, which usually has the highest footfall in the UK, yet where Springboard found that footfall remained 81% lower in June than the previous year.