Customer Behaviour

Shoppers flocked to High Streets and shopping malls across England this weekend, but in numbers well below pre-pandemic levels. It was the first weekend since stores in England reopened on Wednesday. Many business owners are pinning their hopes on a curtailed pre-Christmas trading period, having endured two national lockdowns already this year. But on average, shopper numbers were a quarter below 2019 levels, according to the market researcher Springboard.

It says across the UK as a whole, footfall was down by 30% compared to the same December weekend last year. It comes on the back of a horror week for the retail industry when Topshop-owner Arcadia went into administration, Debenhams announced the closure of its 124 stores, and Primark reported an estimated £430m loss in sales caused by Autumn lockdowns across Europe.

Central London remains far emptier than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, despite some crowds flocking to specially pedestrianised shopping areas in Regent Street on Saturday.

On Sunday, shopper numbers in the capital were half what they would normally be weeks out from Christmas, Springboard reported.

Rowena Howie, who runs a womenswear boutique called Revival Retro in central London, said there were far fewer shoppers in her store than she would normally expect in the lead up to Christmas. “We definitely wouldn’t have been as busy in the shop as we might have been in a normal year, particularly in the first weekend of December,” she said.

Although Ms Howie – who took part in a campaign promoting small businesses on Saturday – said strong online sales meant she was able to record a good day’s trading, the first since before Covid-19.

“We’re in Fitzrovia, having a bricks and mortar store, our takings have been really impacted,” she said. Shoppers appear more eager to visit retail parks than malls and High Streets. On Saturday, footfall numbers for England’s retail parks were slightly higher than they were this time last year, but on Sunday they fell back and were 10% below last year’s figure.

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