Pingdemic panic ahead of summer holiday season impacts footfall across UK retail destinations, Springboard reports

Despite footfall improving between the second and third week of the month when restrictions were lifted, footfall worsened over the month as a whole to -24.2% in July from -22.2% in June, the latest Springboard data reveals.

Footfall declined from 2019 by -30.5% in high streets, -30.2% in shopping centres and -4.2% in retail parks.

The acceleration in footfall decline was greater in high streets than in shopping centres; moving from -27.2% in June to -30.5% in July in high streets whilst in shopping centres it moved to -30.2% in July from -29.1% in June.

Footfall rose by +16.5% on “Freedom Day” from the same day in the week before, but it dropped away to a very modest week on week increase averaging around +3% on the following days of the month.

Footfall was impacted by incredibly hot weather in the week of Freedom Day followed by rain the following week, together with “pingdemic” which curtailed shoppers’ visits to stores and destinations in case it resulted in them needing to self isolate, a key issue for many people with summer holiday bookings in August.

The UK vacancy rate rose once again to 11.8% in July from 11.5% in April, when it had improved from 11.7% in January, and it is now at its highest level since April 2013. The removal of all restrictions at the beginning of the third week of July led to a slight improvement in footfall from the second to the third week of the month. However, footfall worsened over the month as a whole, with the gap from 2019 widening from -22.2% in June to -24.2% in July. All three key retail destination types were impacted, but high streets were harder hit than shopping centres or retail parks; footfall in high streets declined further from 2019 to -30.5% in July compared with -27.2% whilst in shopping centres footfall declined by -30.2% in July compared with -29.1% in June.

Whilst there was a clear uplift in activity of +16.5% on “Freedom Day” from the same day in the
week before, it was not sustained and dropped away to a very modest week on week increase that averaged around +1% on the following days of the month. This was undoubtedly due to a combination of weather – incredibly hot temperatures in the week of Freedom Day followed by rain the following week – together with the “pingdemic” which curtailed shoppers’ visits to stores and destinations in case it resulted in them needing to self isolate, a key issue for many people with summer holiday bookings in August.

The longer term impact of Covid on stores and destinations is becoming ever clearer as we track the vacancy rate each quarter. The latest survey has identified that a greater number of stores are shutting their doors permanently; the UK vacancy rate rose once again to 11.8% in July from 11.5% in April, when it had improved from 11.7% in January, and it is now at its highest level since April 2013.