February footfall remains low, but not as low as January

Footfall remained down by three quarters during the second full month of lockdown, and shopping centres continued to suffer the most due to their high proportion of “non-essential” retailing. But February numbers were up slightly on January.

This is according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ data – in partnership Sensormatic Solutions, which now incorporates the ShopperTrak monitor. It reported that year-on-year overall footfall decreased by 73.5 per cent in February – the second largest drop since May 2020.

In the four weeks 31 January to 27 February 2021, shopping centre numbers declined by 75.7 per cent year-on-year, again the deepest decline since May last year.

Monthly total UK retail footfall (percentage change YOY)

Whereas retail parks benefitted from the presence of large essential retailers such as supermarkets and health stores; here footfall fell by only 34.5 per cent y-o-y. Meanwhile, high street footfall declined by just over 68 per cent y-o-y.

Referring to the data, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: “While footfall improved slightly due to slowing COVID infections boosting consumer confidence, it will be a difficult time for retail until businesses are permitted to reopen in April.

“Retailers welcomed the Chancellor’s extension of key business funding schemes in Wednesday’s Budget. Nonetheless, the real challenge will arise in April, as tens of thousands of “non-essential” retailers hold their breath to see if demand returns to stores. Despite the support offered by the Chancellor, the retail industry is not out of the woods yet.”

Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

In addition, for the sixth consecutive month, Northern Ireland saw the shallowest footfall decline of all regions at -65.6 per cent. Wales saw the deepest decline at -75.4 per cent. In England, Portsmouth, Manchester and Birmingham saw the biggest drops in shopper numbers.

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, commented: “February did see a small lift in shopper counts compared to January, perhaps due to the ongoing success of the vaccine roll-out and the roadmap for unlocking announced earlier in the month giving consumer confidence a boost.

“However, while there is light at the end of tunnel, the outlook between now and 12 April remains bleak. Many retailers will be holding out hope that, once again, consumers will return when they reopen and that pent-up demand for real life retail experiences will sustain the high street’s recovery.”