Covering the four weeks 2 – 29 May 2021

2020 was a turbulent year in which much of retail bounced between being open and closed, impacting footfall significantly. To make meaningful comparisons to changes in footfall, all 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic). This means our 2021 figures are now year-on-two-years (Yo2Y), rather than year-on-year (YoY).

According to BRC-Sensormatic IQ data:

  • Total UK Footfall decreased by 27.7% in May (Yo2Y), with a 12.3 percentage point improvement from April. This is above the 3-month average decline of 46.9%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive of British Retail Consortium, said:
“May saw footfall levels improve across the UK’s high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. This was in part due to the further easing of Covid restrictions, including the reopening of indoor hospitality, which enticed consumers back to shopping locations knowing they could grab a drink or something to eat whilst enjoying a spot of retail therapy. The successful vaccination roll-out has also boosted consumer confidence and contributed to the improvement in footfall. However, restrictions on travel have denied many businesses, particularly those in our larger town and city centres, of vital overseas tourist spending.

“Nonetheless, footfall levels are still significantly down on two years ago. Many high streets have an increasing number of vacant shops, and many retailers still face significant and mounting debts, and with £2.9 billion in unpaid rents built up over the pandemic. The Government should ringfence these lockdown rent debts to provide the breathing space for footfall and cash flows to recover, and enable landlords and tenants to work on equitable and long-term solutions for the future and avert terminal decline in many communities.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, commented:
“May saw a slow but steady recovery for the High Street as shoppers continued to return to bricks-and-mortar stores.  The improved shopper counts will have been helped by the reopening of indoor hospitality, which helped drive ambient footfall as consumers combined store visits with leisure and socialising. 

While still down compared to pre-pandemic levels, we’ve seen cautious but consistent improvement to footfall with each passing month as society unlocks and the vaccine roll-out continues at pace, giving retailers a cause for cautious optimism.  However, the prospect of a sustained recovery is still very much hanging in the balance, with variants of concern and an uptick in infection rates threatening to undermine consumer confidence, and the final stage of unlocking far from a fait accompli.”