Christmas shoppers out in force across region as lockdown ends

Ipswich town centre Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Shoppers have started to return to East Anglian town centres after the end of lockdown - but footfall isn't as high as a year ago - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Christmas shoppers are returning to East Anglia’s high streets as restrictions ease — but numbers are still down significantly on last year’s footfall, figures show.

After England’s non-essential retail reopening on Wednesday, December 2, retail analyst Springboard recorded a sharp rise in shopper numbers.

Its latest data suggested that footfall in England rose by 81% compared to the previous week in lockdown across all retail destinations, with shopping centres seeing the biggest lift at 121%, compared to 80% in high streets and a 41% rise in footfall for retail parks compared to the previous week.

But its weekly figures covered the period from Sunday, November 29, which meant that they also took in three days of lockdown.
Over the week, retailers across the East of England saw a 50% rise in shopper numbers — but this was still significantly down on last year at 33% lower.

East of England high streets saw a 47% week-on-week rise in footfall but this was still down by -40% on last year. The region's retail parks picked up by 43% on the previous week but were down -8% year-on-year, and shopping centres saw a 64% increase from a week before, but this was still down by 41% on the previous year.

Across England, footfall across all retail destinations was 41% lower than in 2019, but in high streets it was 51% lower and in shopping centres it was down by 46%.

However, a full week out of lockdown might tell a very different story. Springboard found that on Saturday, December 5, alone, footfall across retail parks was just 1.3% lower than in 2019.

Following the reopening of retail stores in England on Wednesday, there was an average week-on-week 63% uplift across all retail destinations but a massive 93% footfall rise in shopping centres.
In high streets footfall rose by an average of 65% week-on-week over the four days and by 26% in retail parks.

 As garden centres and food stores were able to stay open during lockdown, retail park footfall was just 16% lower than in 2019 over the course of the week.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said shopping centres in particular had been given a big boost from the lifting of lockdown.
“This is not an unexpected outcome, as shoppers tend to gravitate towards shopping centres in the run up to Christmas as they host the greatest number of stores in a single location, which also tend to be larger stores with a wider choice of products.

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“The most modest rise in footfall occurred in retail parks, but these locations have been the most resilient of all three destination types in retaining footfall, and so started from a higher base.”

Extended trading hours appeared to be helping “a little”, but “recovery from the decline that has occurred since the start of the first lockdown is still a way off, with the volume of customers in bricks and mortar destinations remaining far below the level recorded in 2019”, she said.