The Platinum Jubilee weekend followed a month when, on the surface, trading conditions improved with a strengthening in footfall from April to -13.7% below 2019 in May versus -15.9% in April. Indeed the results reflect the strong store sales results for many retail categories recorded by Springboard’s Store Sales Tracker which show that in-store sales were +5% higher in May than in May 2019, fuelled by increases in sales in nine out of ten categories as savings accrued through the pandemic period and spending in advance of much longed for holidays continued to fuel store spend.
However, the results belie the underlying cost pressures that are starting to reveal themselves to consumers. Footfall in the first week of the month was favourable, buoyed by the Early May Bank Holiday – a rise of +1.5% from the week before meant that footfall was just -9.3% below 2019 across all retail destinations and -0.6% below 2019 in retail parks, the narrowest gap from 2019 since the pandemic. From then on, however, footfall worsened, ending the month at -16.1% below the 2019 level in the last week. This suggests that there is a split between those who have cash or who have been able to save over the pandemic period and are therefore able to make the most of spending opportunities, and those who are just about managing due to the rising inflation and increased bills as it is these people who are having to really rail back on their shopping activity.
Despite the uncertain prospects for household budgets, and therefore for footfall and spending, there was positive news for retailers at the start of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period, albeit that performance waned on Friday and Saturday. On Thursday, footfall rose by +17.7% across all retail destinations from the week before, with increases from the previous week in all three key destination types. However, it was high streets that were the star performers on Thursday, undoubtedly helped by the warm and sunny weather and Jubilee events being held in many town centres, with a rise of +22.6% on Thursday versus +14.8% in shopping centres and +10.2% in retail parks. All types of town centre benefited on Thursday but given the good weather and the fact that it was a school half term holiday coastal towns had exceptional performance, with footfall increasing by a huge +63.7% from the previous Thursday, resulting in an uplift of +21.3% from the 2019 level on that one day.
On Friday and Saturday, footfall was lower than on the same days in the previous week (-6.7% on Friday and -10.4% on Saturday), as shoppers turned their attention to more local jubilee celebrations, but high streets remained slightly more resilient than either retail parks or shopping centres (footfall in high streets declined from the week before by -4.3% on Friday and -9.4% on Saturday versus -8% on Friday and -11.5% on Saturday from the week before in retail parks, and -10.2% and -11.4% from the week before in shopping centres).