East shoppers come out in force as non-essential retail lockdown ends

The queue for Ipswich's Primark stretched down to Museum Street

The queue for Ipswich's Primark which stretched down to Museum Street as non-essential stores came out of lockdown - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Shoppers poured into East of England high streets as lockdown lifted, figures reveal.

Footfall was up by a spectacular 158.8% across the region’s towns and cities week-on-week on Monday, April 12, as non-essential stores reopened for business on a chilly but fine day. But it was still 4.6% down on the same day in the pre-lockdown era in 2019 and followed a muted week — even by lockdown standards, according to retail analysts Springboard.

There was 531.6% more foot traffic in the region’s retail areas compared to the same day in 2020, during the first lockdown which lasted from March 20 to June 15, its figures reveal.

But in the week prior to lockdown from Sunday, April 4, to Saturday, April 10, the region’s footfall dipped by 10.3% week-on-week — and was 54.4% lower than in pre-Covid 2019. However, year-on-year it was still up by 101% compared to 2020 and the first lockdown.

After lockdown was lifted, footfall across all UK shopping destinations soared by 155% on Monday, compared to the same day in the previous week. 

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Shopping centres were the main beneficiary with a 225.2% leap compared to 176.1% more in high streets. Springboard said this may have been down to the cold weather.

Central London saw a giant rise in footfall at 202.4%.

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Overall, UK retail parks saw a more modest increase of 35.9% week-on-week but as these contain essential shopping facilities such as supermarkets which remained open during lockdown this was unsurprising, analysts said. At the same time retail park foot traffic across the UK was 7.8% higher than on the same pre-Covid day in 2019.

Springboard’s Diane Wehrle said the strong uplift highlighted that consumer demand is higher than even forecasted, and showed bricks and mortar still holds a key position within the retail sector.

“The first day of retail reopening was an amazingly positive result and one which finally offers retailers with some positive news,” she said.

“With footfall in shopping centres rising by 225.2% and on high streets by 155.2% on the first day of trading, the sector can finally see a visible road to recovery after a difficult year.”

In the week leading up to the easing of lockdown, retail destinations across the UK saw an average drop of 9.6% in footfall. This was down to the cold weather and the lack of incentive to visit destinations where the vast majority of shops were closed with their reopening just a few days off, said Springboard experts.

Monday and Tuesday (April 5 and 6) were particularly badly hit because of cold weather and snow showers, it added. “Despite this, footfall was more than 2.5 times higher last week than in the same week in 2020 when the UK was in the midst of Lockdown 1,” said Ms Wehrle.

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