‘Pent-up demand’ and good weather bring shoppers out in May

Good weather and “pent-up demand” for shopping saw an uptick in the number of consumers in physical stores during May.

Figures from consumer intelligence company Springboard showed a 73.3% drop in footfall during the second month of lockdown – the lowest on record – but it was an improvement from the 80% fall in April.

The UK went into lockdown on 23 March to slow the spread of the COVID-19, with all retail stores deemed non-essential forced to close.

The government has since allowed some home stores and garden centres to reopen during May and car show rooms began trading from the start of June.

Retail parks have led the recovery in the number of shoppers, partly aided by the presence of essential food stores and home stores that have stayed open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The 55.1% drop in footfall at retail parks in May, compared to the same month last year, was significantly better than the high street and shopping centres where the drop in demand has been 78% and 80.5% respectively.

Springboard also noted that smaller high streets have been the most resilient during the lockdown as consumers shopped locally. Footfall on major high streets declined by 89% compared to 41% for the smallest.

“The limited evidence so far has suggested that, despite the growth in online shopping over the past two months, there is a huge amount of pent-up demand amongst consumers for bricks-and-mortar shopping,” said Diane Wehrle, director of Springboard.

She added: “The first indication of this were the monumental queues that built up at major home stores in the weekend before the official easing of lockdown restrictions in England on 1st June.”

Long queues and social distancing measures were seen at IKEA as the company opened its doors to shoppers for the first time since the lockdown.

Other non-essential retail stores will begin to open from 15 June if they meet guidelines to keep shoppers safe from COVID-19.

Restaurants and cafes, pubs, cinemas, clothing and electronics stores are still required to remain closed.

Ms Wehrle added: “The key trend to be watched over the period of retail reopening in June, and over subsequent months, will be whether this signals the beginning of a new era for local high streets.”

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