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Retailers that have chosen to locate in retail parks are seeing more shoppers than high streets and shopping centres, suggest data

Research has revealed that the second lockdown has proven less damaging to consumer footfall than the first, with retail parks seeing the lowest reduction compared to its high street and shopping centre counterparts.

The data, released by insights firm Springboard, found that footfall across all retail destinations in the UK was 57.7 per cent lower last week than it was in the same week of 2019.

Despite the gloomy year-on-year football comparison, Springboard’s data found that footfall was better across all three when compared against the spring lockdown. Compared to the 57.7 per cent year-on-year drop in the second week of the winter lockdown, the first lockdown in March saw a fall of 75.1 per cent.

Shopping centres fared the worst with footfall down 65.7 per cent year-on-year but still better than March, where it fell by 79 per cent. High streets were a close second, down 64.7 per cent – an improvement on March’s 79 per cent.

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On the other hand, the footfall reduction across retail parks were less significant, down just 34.3 per cent – in the first lockdown, this dropped a substantial 61 per cent.

The resilience across retail parks may play into the hands of mobility retailers that have purposely positioned themselves in these out-of-town shopping hubs.

Mike Williams, a firm advocate of retail parks who has launched multiple large mobility stores in the shopping locations, explained his position to THIIS in last year’s ‘Is the high street sustainable?’ Trade Thoughts feature in September.

“When I first came into the trade, I was told ‘nationwide out of town stores won’t work in this trade’,” he said.

“As in any other industry, if you can offer the full range, best prices and ample car parking, it definitely does work and we and others like us are here to stay. But that doesn’t mean there is no room for innovative mobility stores on the high street.”

The data supports the general notion that the second lockdown in the UK is keeping fewer people indoors compared to the spring.

The second week of England’s lockdown marked the end of Wales’ 17-day “fire-break”, which may have played a part in increasing the UK’s overall figures. In the nation, footfall to retail destinations rocketed 135.9 per cent compared to the previous week.

Drilling down into the detail, Springboard’s data found that footfall spiked between Thursday to Saturday, up 10.1 per cent on high streets and 14.1 per cent in shopping centres. Retail parks saw the biggest jump, however, up 18.7 per cent.

“The first complete week of Lockdown 2 drove footfall down across UK retail destinations, although the decline wasn’t nearly as severe as it was in Lockdown 1 or indeed as comprehensive,” Springboard insight director Diane Wehrle said.

“This was partly due to schools remaining open, although the vast majority of school-related journeys take place outside of retail destinations and so would not directly impact footfall in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.

“The fact that footfall is more resilient may well be a function of the proximity of Christmas, and the concern of shoppers to buy well in advance this year to avoid queues, facilitated by the wide range of non-food products offered in stores selling essential goods.

“In the second half of the week, from Thursday to Saturday, footfall was significantly higher than on the same three days in the previous week which were the first three days of the lockdown, indicating that as the week progressed shoppers began to make trips out of their homes.

“Indeed, this reinforces the concern about the likely rebound in activity following the end of the lockdown, highlighted by the unprecedented increase in footfall recorded in Wales following the end of the two-week lockdown.”

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