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High street footfall down in September amid tighter restrictions
09 October 2020

High street footfall “steadily dropped” throughout September as the tightening of restrictions impacted retailers’ recovery, according to new data.

The latest BRC-ShopperTrack footfall monitor revealed that UK retail footfall decreased by 30.1% in September compared to the same month last year.

The figures revealed a 4.7 percentage point improvement against August but saw local lockdown restrictions weigh on shopping throughout the month.

“As the second wave of the pandemic sweeps the UK and additional restrictions come into force, footfall has steadily dropped during the month as many shoppers chose to stay at home,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The report highlighted a nine percentage point fall in footfall from the start of September to the end of the period as local restrictions kept shoppers at home.

Dickinson said: “It is likely that rising case numbers and future restrictions may see footfall decline in the coming months.

“Sales at upcoming holidays, including Halloween and Bonfire night, are also likely to remain muted.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said: “This is a critical time when retailers are readying themselves for the start of the Golden Quarter and Christmas trading.

“Retailers have already invested heavily in safety, compliance and alternate ways to shop, but will need to continue to hard-bake consumer confidence into shopping journeys to ensure they capitalise on festive footfall and, crucially, sales.

“This peak season, consumers are likely to shop earlier, less often, and with more purpose, making each visit more valuable than ever before.”

High street footfall was 36.9% lower than the same month last year while footfall in shopping centres was 36.1% lower.

Meanwhile, retail parks were the most resilient in September, reporting footfall which was just 6.9% lower year-on-year.

A separate report by accountancy giant BDO revealed that shops posted strong like-for-like sales at the start of September but “quickly receded” in the month as sentiment dipped.

The BDO high street sales tracker reported that like-for-like sales were down 23.4% in stores in September against the same month last year.

It reported that fashion stores were particularly weak, reporting a 30.4% year-on-year decrease.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “While the first week of September provided a moment of positivity, the sustained threat of a COVID-19 second wave means retailers are remaining cautious over the near-term outlook, opting to place low levels of orders with their suppliers again this month.

“Activity in retail sales was picking up in the third quarter but there is concern that this will quickly fade amid rising nervousness as government support schemes which have helped to prop up jobs and businesses’ cash resources begin to diminish.”

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