UK Easter footfall: expect spring boost says Springboard, but fashion may struggle
There was some good news for UK retail on Monday as specialist footfall tracking firm Springboard predicted an encouraging uplift for Easter weekend. But fashion retailers need not get too excited as there was some bad news for them.
Springboard expects footfall to all UK retail destinations to rise by 5.4% year-on-year this coming three-day weekend. That would follow a 1.2% rise during March, breaking the six-month consecutive decline in what has been a challenging environment industry-wide.
And the bad news? While historically, 25% of physical store sales over Easter are made in fashion retailers with only 10% being made at food and beverage outlets, this year will see the numbers moving in food and beverage’s favour. Springboard is forecasting sales in food and beverage outlets to increase to 15% of the total, with a drop in sales in fashion to around 20% due to “more conservative consumer spending on retail goods and increased preference for spending on experiences.”
But there could be a silver lining. E-tail data specialist PCA Predict, whose numbers are always released alongside Springboard’s, is forecasting online transactions to increase by an average of 17% over the three Easter trading days, with an increase of 20% forecast for Easter Monday.
With fashion and accessories being among the biggest categories for online spending, that could mean Britons will still be spending on clothes, shoes and bags, it’s just that they may not be doing so in-store.
SUNSHINE AND SALARIES
Not all retail destinations will benefit equally from the predicted Easter footfall uplift. High streets should see an 8.8% rise next weekend, benefitting from “the evening economy” with consumers going out to eat and drink rather than simply going out to shop, Springboard said.
Footfall in retail parks is forecast to increase 3.5%, benefitting from Easter falling in mid-April post-payday with the forecast spring weather highly likely to encourage DIY and garden purchases.
But shopping centres, with their greater concentration of fashion stores, could see a rise of just 0.1%. UK shopping centres’ weakened performance is “due to their inflexibility as a retail destination to respond to shoppers’ fast-changing needs and as a result, the little investment in their upkeep, diversity and offering,” Springboard said.
Its insights director Diane Wehrle said that due to the timing of national payday before Easter, mild spring weather and the continued trend for consumer spending focused on leisure and hospitality trips, this Easter should outperform Easter 2016. Last year footfall dropped 1.9% as the weekend suffered from being earlier in the year with much cooler weather.
Wehrle said: “[2016’s] Easter took place on March 25, a few days in advance of national payday for many shoppers. This combined with poor weather conditions, impacted footfall, which declined across retail destinations from Easter Saturday onwards.
“Mild spring weather is forecast for this Easter, which falls after the national payday. This strongly indicates that more shoppers will visit retail destinations over the weekend compared with last year.”
But will the weather really make that big an impact? Wehrle cited Good Friday last year – the one day of the weekend with good weather – when footfall on high streets increased 16.4% compared to Good Friday 2015.
Easter’s forecast is supported by March’s positive performance across all retail destinations in comparison to February’s weaker figures. UK high street footfall increased 1.7% in March, retail parks increased 1.4% and although shopping centres only saw marginal growth of 0.2%, it was, at least, an increase.
But there was more bad news for the fashion sector in those March figures. Springboard said the trend for increased leisure and hospitality trips continued as data showed footfall on high streets outside of retail trading hours was much stronger than working hours, indicating that retail was not the key driver of footfall.
But retail will be the key driver of online sales even with food and beverage taking a larger slice of that cake. And with PCA Predict expecting that 17% uplift, mobile will be key.
Chris Harle, COO of PCA Predict, said: “Traditionally, Bank Holiday Monday is one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping, and we are expecting this year to be no different. We are expecting to see online transactions via mobile reaching an estimated 49% over Easter weekend. This is a 10% increase on the same time last year as shoppers become more accustomed to shopping on their mobile devices.
“With good weather in sight, it is likely that mobile shoppers will continue to make purchases out in the sunshine via smartphone or tablet. However, with British springtime such a difficult period to predict, no one can say for definite whether April showers will encourage people to stay indoors. We are also likely to see consistent mobile usage throughout the day, including over the dinner table, with few dramatic spikes.”
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