Retail footfall continues slow recovery, online sales slow 

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Retail footfall is continuing its slow post-pandemic recovery, according to new research from retail data specialist Springboard. 

Springboard’s 2022 Review of Footfall and Retail Trends report shows that footfall across all of UK retail outlets stands at around -14% of its 2019 level. 

Some further closing of this football gap is likely, but this could well depend on a store’s location. The report shows that retail parks have been recovering more strongly than high streets and shopping centres. Differences continue to be seen between city centre and market town locations. As the country eased out of lockdowns, regional cities fared better than market towns and are continuing to do so. 

Springboard says that a “small but steady diminution of footfall” had been evident before the Covid lockdowns and a loss of around 4% of total footfall would have been expected between 2019-2022, without the pandemic.

One of the most striking findings of the report is the slowing of online sales over the past year, which Springboard says is “very encouraging news” for bricks and mortar retailers and “confirmation that people are coming back to physical shops again”. There is some positive news for the health food trade itself when the report looks at which types of retail are staging the strongest recovery. While some categories, such as DIY and General Merchandise remain firmly in the doldrums (with sales at -13% and -9.1% of their 2019 figures), health and beauty sales in town centre stores were 6.9% above their pre-pandemic figures in 2022. This shows the real resilience of the health sector and bodes well for future growth potential.

The Springboard report also offers a useful snapshot of 2023 retail trends. It predicts that hybrid working (some days in the office, some at home) will become “fully established” this year. This suggests that some of the changing shopping patterns we have seen are set to continue – for example, more evening and weekend shopping visits, and less frequent trips but longer dwell times. Shifts in peak trading days and trading hours are also likely to continue.

When Springboard asked consumers about their shopping behaviour, they found:

52% of respondents hadn’t changed their behaviour

22% had visiting less frequently

16% visited more during the evening or weekend

11% visited on different days 

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