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UK retail footfall improves ahead of non-essential shops reopening

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 08: A woman walks to the shops in Liverpool city centre on April 08, 2021 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  All non-essential retail will be able to reopen from April 12, along with hairdressers, nail salons, bars and restaurants for outdoor table service, libraries and gyms. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Under the new rules from 12 April non-essential retailers will be able to stay open from 7AM until 10PM from Monday to Saturday. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Footfall across UK retail destinations "crept up" amid the warm weather and as the government lifted its official stay at home order at the end of March. 

On Monday, non-essential shops, outdoor dining and activities will be able to resume to trade, following months of being shuttered. 

But social distancing rules will continue to apply in shops and face masks will be compulsory except for people who are exempt.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that shoppers will feel more confident about returning to shops than they did in June 2020, when no COVID vaccination had yet been developed. Adding "the safety measures put in place" are helping customers return to stores. 

New figures from the BRC and Sensormatic Solutions show total UK footfall fell by 68.7% in March year-on-two-year (Yo2Y), with a 4.9 percentage point improvement from February this year. This is above the 3-month average decline of 72.3%.

Of all the regions, Northern Ireland again saw the shallowest footfall decline at -56.4%, followed by Scotland at -66.3% and England at 68.7. Wales saw the deepest decline at -71.2%.

"While non-essential stores remained closed, we saw an incremental improvement in March footfall against February’s shopper counts, fuelled by growing consumer confidence, the promise of greater freedom to come and the relaxation of the Stay At Home guidance,” said Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions.

Sumpter added the anticipated recovery will depend on whether or not the reopening is reversed in the coming weeks or months. "After a year of yo-yoing in and out of lockdown, retailers will be hoping for stability and, once again, will be counting on the continued support of shoppers if any sort of bounce back is to be sustained."

Last month, the government announced that non-essential retailers will be given extended opening hours to help businesses recover and customers to shop safely.

Under the new rules from 12 April retailers will be able to stay open from 7AM until 10PM from Monday to Saturday.

READ MORE: Restaurant bookings surge 88% ahead of reopening

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC said: "Footfall crept up on high streets and shopping centres as warmer weather coincided with the end of the government’s stay at home requirements.”

Dickinson said that non-food retail stores will have lost £30bn ($41bn) in "foregone sales over the three lockdowns" and that its essential shops are able to "trade effectively" from 12 April, and remain open.

Meanwhile, restaurants reported a surge in outdoor bookings ahead of their planned reopening on Monday 12 April. According to TheFork, formally Bookatable, there has been an 88% increase in bookings.

But, while there has been a "phenomenal increase" since Boris Johnson confirmed earlier this week that restaurants can reopen, the company has said there are risks of people not turning up.

TheFork said that "no-shows" will hinder post-COVID hospitality recovery as the sector attempts to overcome the carnage of closures and job losses caused by the crisis.

This could impact businesses that were forced to overhaul their models in accordance with government measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some venues such as pubs and cafes have also invested vast amounts of money to accommodate guests as Brits prepare to visit their favourite restaurants after the coronavirus lockdowns.

Pub and bar operator Punch Pubs said it invested £1m in its beer gardens and outside spaces.

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