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UK retail footfall closer to pre-virus levels amid half-term boost

Thu, 4th Nov 2021 05:00

(Alliance News) - UK retail footfall received a late October lift from the school half-term break, figures on Thursday showed, as high streets edge closer to becoming the bustling places they once were prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to figures from Springboard, the decline in UK footfall eased in October. Retail football was 13% lower than two years earlier in October, comparing favourably to September's 17% decline. Compared to a year earlier, retail footfall surged 29% in October.

Ahead of the half-term break, footfall was 14% lower on average in the first three weeks of the month, compared to 2019. Helped by the school break, footfall in the final week was down by a slimmer 11% two-year shortfall.

Across October, high street footfall alone was 15% lower than 2019 levels and up 42% from a year earlier. Shopping centre footfall was down 20% on pre-virus numbers, though jumped 22% from last year's virus hit levels. In retail parks, the decline compared to two year's earlier was a much slimmer 3.1%, though the rise from a year earlier was just 8.4%.

Retail parks were among the destinations favoured during the pandemic, thanks to their larger spaces. They also often have supermarkets and garden centres, two places which saw boosts in demand during lockdown measures.

Less promisingly for the sector, however, vacancy rates were largely unmoved. They ticked down marginally to 11.7% in October, from 11.8% in July.

"This is despite the growth of pop-up stores which are a typical feature of retail destinations in the run-up to Christmas, but which should be even more prevalent now given the greater availability of empty space," Springboard Marketing & Insights Director Diane Wehrle commented.

"However, this is not a surprising outcome as the vacancy rate is both a lagged and sticky indicator. The complexities of the leasing market and the heavy burden of business rates hinders the reoccupation of empty units whilst also often forcing unviable retailers to continue to trade, highlighting its limitations as the sole indicator for determining bricks and mortar retail performance."

By Eric Cunha; ericcunha@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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