Jan 24, 2022
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Springboard 2021 footfall review shows Covid impact, permanent behaviour evolution

Jan 24, 2022

Footfall to retail destinations has been recovering since the original lockdown in 2020, but 2021 still saw a disastrous fall of 31.1% compared to 2019, tracking specialist Springboard said on Monday.

Image: Public domain

It said the outlook for 2021 was shaped by the three-month lockdown and the closure of retail from 6 January to 12 April. But the key difference between last year and 2020 was the success of the vaccination programme, and the positive impact this had on all aspects of consumers’ daily lives. It made shoppers far more confident about venturing into stores once they were allowed to.

That mean the 31.1% deficit last year was better than the 39.1% drop in 2020.

Springboard has also drawn conclusions about that will happen in 2022 and said “the maturity of the hybrid office/home working model will result in a greater number of retail visits in the evening and at the weekend, longer dwell times and an increase in the combination of shopping and dining as the prospect of going out after a work day at home is more attractive”. 

During the January to April lockdown last year, retail parks fared better than other destinations with a 33.9% footfall drop compared to -69.4% in high streets and -71% in shopping centres. And the attractiveness of retail parks to consumers became even more evident following the reopening of retail in April. Over the nine-month period to December, footfall there was just 4.4% below 2019 versus -25.8% in high streets and -26.9% in shopping centres. 

This is a factor that could influence retailer decisions about they site their stores in future.

That said, the Delta and Omicron variants saw footfall to all destinations dropping back at various points in the year.

One key theme running through the year was the growth of ‘shopping local’ and the problems this caused to city centre flagship destinations.

Working from home for at least part of the week “became firmly established and cemented the growth of localism, a trend identified in 2020”. Springboard’s UK Consumer Survey showed that 57% of consumers worked at least part of the week at home in 2021, and that 24% of these consumers visited retail destinations less frequently. 

Inevitably this led to a proportionately greater reduction in footfall in large city centres than in more local high streets, as consumers were able to visit these easily from home during the working week. The most extreme example of the increase in localism is the comparison of footfall performance in Central London vs Outer London. Footfall in Outer London in 2021 was 27.3% lower than 2019 compared with a disastrous -52% in Central London. 

It also said that from May to December when stores were allowed to open, in-store sales were 4.2% lower than the same eight-month period in 2019. However there were some categories where sales were on par or higher than 2019. Jewellery saw sales rise from 2019 by 15.1%. Even in health & beauty and fashion & accessories, store sales were only very slightly lower than in 2019 (-0.5% and -0.6%). 

It was particularly interesting that while physical shopping fared better in 2021 than it had in 2020 (when the shock of the pandemic has been truly devastating) online sales averaged 30% of the total last year, increasing from 2020 when they’d averaged 27.2%. 

This shows how the online habit had become ingrained during the year’s lockdown in a way it might not have been in 2020, but also that it continued post-lockdown.

Online sales for clothing and footwear peaked at 57.4% during Lockdown 3, however, this also means that 42.6% of spending occurred in-store, despite only essential retailers’ stores being able to trade. Consumers were clearly buying fashion at multi-category stores that didn’t have their clothing sections roped off.

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