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Footfall weakens in April but store sales remain positive

Tom Bottomley
05 May 2022

In what could be seen as a precursor to a contraction in retail consumer activity as the rising cost of living starts to hit households, UK footfall across all destinations weakened to -15.9% in the four weeks from 3-30 April 2022, compared to April in pre-pandemic 2019.

That was further fall from March 2022, which saw a drop of -15.3% compared with March 2019.

However, those consumers who remain insulated from the increasing cost of living pressures are currently still spending. According to the town centre sales tracker from retail experts Springboard, sales in physical stores in April remained positive.

There were increases in sales across a number of key retail categories compared to 2019, with sales at department store up 9.7%, fashion sales up 3.7%, healthy and beauty up 2.5%, jewellery up 16.7% and food and beverage up 5.9%.

Despite increased spending, UK footfall in April declined from April 2019 by -18.5% in high streets, -20.3% in shopping centres and -5.3% in retail parks.

April was only really salvaged by Easter in the second week of the month, when footfall rose 9.1% from the week before, compared to a week-on-week drop across the remaining three weeks that averaged -1.1%.

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, said: “So, it seems that while consumer activity in stores and destinations is not bouncing back to pre-pandemic level, those consumers who remain insulated from increasing cost of living pressures are still spending, undoubtedly supported by the fact that many will have not had the opportunity to shop in store since the start of the pandemic and have additional savings available to them.

The issue for retail is whether the result for April is a precursor to a contraction in retail consumer activity over the forthcoming months, as strong inflationary pressures start to hit household budgets that are forecast to become of far greater significance as we move through 2022.”

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