- Following the Government’s decision to permit all non-essential stores in England to open their doors from 15th June provided they followed the official guidelines to deliver a safe shopping environment, the return to the shops was generally tempered with caution.
- It is estimated that approximately 60% of non-essential stores re-opened that day, as retailers tested their approaches to their new operational models in stores and adopted a staggered re-opening plan.
- The general public also felt their way back, with 40% of respondents admitting in Ipsos’ COVID tracking survey that they remained uncomfortable about shopping in stores other than supermarkets.
- It came as little surprise, therefore, that shopper numbers in non-food stores ended the first day down by -62.7% overall year-on-year and by -38.4% for those that had opened.
- Non-essential stores in Northern Ireland had already been given the green light to re-open from Friday 12th June, while stores in Wales and Scotland had to wait until 22nd June and 29th June respectively until the devolved governments approved the easing of their lockdown plans.
- The average weekly footfall in the UK was down by -65.7% overall in June once stores had begun to re-open. Each of the three weeks saw a slight narrowing of the year-on-year deficit.
- Stores in the West Midlands enjoyed the strongest performance with average weekly footfall levels down by -59.3% against the same three weeks of last year.
- Footfall was strongest on retail parks with average weekly levels down -63.3% on 2019.
Dr Tim Denison, director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said:
“Thankfully the re-opening programmes have largely gone very smoothly and this has been reflected in progressively more shoppers venturing out week-by-week, reassured by their own experiences and those shared by others.
“We still have a long way to go, however. With the social distancing guidelines in place, customer capacities have been reduced significantly in stores, even with the relaxation from 2m to 1+m in England, and this obviously impacts on every store’s footfall potential.
“Quite what ‘good’ looks like for a year-on-year comparator for store footfall is difficult to ascertain at the moment. If store journeys become shorter as trips become more destination-oriented than casual browsing experiences, then a delta of -30% would appear healthy, as customer capacity constraints would be offset by greater throughput.
“It is still early days to know how much shopping behaviour has changed, what changes are for the short or long term and how long the safety guidelines will remain in force and impact on footfall. The one thing that is blatantly apparent is that retailers will need to manage their businesses on lower store footfall. The survival imperatives are therefore to deliver higher conversion rates and average transaction values in stores, ramp up click-and-collect capabilities and bolster online sales performance.”