• Paul Kelson

‘Tech even more vital’ as footfall at record lows

UK footfall decreased by 84.7 per cent in April, a record decline for the sector during the Coronavirus lockdown.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and ShopperTrak figures showed that footfall on high streets declined by 81.8 per cent year-on-year.

Retail parks saw footfall decrease by 62.4 per cent year-on-year, while shopping centre footfall declined by 87.8 per cent year-on-year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson pointed out that the fall was slightly less dramatic in retail parks, where a high proportion of supermarkets and other essential stores have remained open, slightly mitigating the overall reduction in footfall.

“We will see an acceleration of many trends seen prior to the coronavirus pandemic – lower footfall as many consumers choose to browse digitally, and a corresponding rise in online sales.

“Ultimately, the very nature of many retail jobs will change, with impressive customer service and the effective use of technology becomes even more vital.”

Ian Muir, general manager at ShopperTrak, said: “Retailers will now be required to deliver in-store experiences that are both safe and frictionless; safety will need to be reassuringly visible but executed as seamlessly as possible – a feat that is only achievable through combining engaged store associates and well-applied data.”

Evidence of this new cautious consumerism can be seen in Germany’s footfall figures, with the reopening of its retail stores starting in mid-April. German footfall at the beginning of the month (week 15) was down at 98.3 per cent year-on-year, but by the end of April (week 18) it had improved by 10.7 percentage points to 87.6 per cent.

“While shopper traffic was still down, these green shoots of slow retail recovery may indicate what lies ahead for the UK,” added Muir.

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