Beast from the East 2 sweeps away region's high street shoppers

Snow blowing a blizzard through a virtually empty Ipswich town centre during Beast from the East #2

A snow blizzard sweeps Ipswich town centre as Beast from the East #2 empties East Angia's high streets - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Already much-reduced shopper numbers in the East of England took another beating as the Beast from the East 2 struck the region, figures show.

With snow thick on the ground, householders avoided going out on even essential shopping trips allowed under lockdown  - with numbers down by 3% week-on-week, latest footfall numbers from retail analysts Springboard reveal.

Unsurprisingly with many outlets closed due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, shopper numbers were also 62.1% lower than the same week a year ago across the region. 

A snowy Theatre Street in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Shoppers shun Theatre Street area of Norwich as the Beast from the East descends - Credit: Danielle Booden

The week-on-week fall ran counter to the national picture, which surprisingly saw more shoppers emerging across the board - up 1.5% - possibly as a result of lockdown fatigue, analysts suggest.

The statistics - which measure footfall in towns and cities across the country from Sunday, February 7 to Saturday, February 13 - showed that across the UK shopper numbers were down by 61.4% on a year ago.

Regionally, high streets saw a 4.4% footfall drop on the previous week (-67% compared to 2020), retail parks a 0.1% rise (-40.1% on last year) and shopping centres a 2.9% weekly decline (-72.8%).

Nationally, high streets took the biggest hit at 69.3% down year--on-year and 1.7% lower week-on-week. Meanwhile shoppers started to return in greater numbers to retail parks, which saw a 6.1% week-on-week rise (down 34.4% year-on-year), while shopping centres also staged a slight recovery - up 3.9% on the week before but still down 70.9% year-on-year.

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Smaller towns took the bigger hit, with footfall fall by 1.4% as more people chose to shop in regional cities - up 1.7%. This ran counter to "normal" behaviour during snow, when shoppers tend to opt for local stores, said Springboard.

As snow hit the UK, town footfall declined between Sunday and Tuesday but rose later in the week, the survey found.

"With declines in high street footfall in seven of the 10 UK geographies it is clear that the snow deterred shoppers, although this wasn’t the case in either retail parks or shopping centres where footfall rose in all but one area," Springboard added.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said despite Beast from the East 2 hitting virtually all parts of the UK at some point last week, footfall across retail destinations continued to rise from the week before - perhaps as a result of lockdown fatigue.

"The weather did impact high streets, but it was more than compensated for by increases in footfall in shopping centres and retail parks," she said.

 "Last week was the fourth consecutive week in which footfall has increased from the week before, delivering ever more evidence that shoppers are experiencing lockdown fatigue and are increasingly willing to travel to retail destinations, whatever the weather. In fact, in the seven weeks since Lockdown 3 came into effect on Boxing Day, the only declines have been in the first three weeks of the lockdown, which included the two weeks following Christmas when footfall typically drops anyway.

 "The drop in footfall from the same week last year is now the lowest it's been since the second week of the lockdown.”