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February shoppers help retail footfall climb to pandemic high

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As coronavirus restrictions eased, people flocked back to the shops in February, helping retail footfall climb to its highest level since the pandemic began.

While total UK footfall decreased by 14.9% in February compared to the pre-pandemic figure, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) noted this was a 2.2 percentage point improvement from January.

Overall, England suffered the lowest footfall decline of all regions at -14.4%, followed by Northern Ireland (-15.5%) and Wales (-17.1). Scotland saw the steepest decline at -17.5%.

The BRC revealed footfall on high streets declined by 19.5% compared to February 2020, but the figure is 4.8 percentage points better than the previous month’s rate.

Turning to retail parks, the consortium revealed footfall decreased by 10.2% in the two years since February 2020, 2.8 percentage points better than January’s rate.

However, shopping centre footfall declined by 35.2%, 2.3 percentage points better than last month’s rate, and an improvement on the three-month average decline of 36.8%.

The improvement in retail footfall coincided with the easing of coronavirus restrictions in England, and while it dipped due to storm Eunice, the BRC said the figures soon bounced back.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief-executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “UK footfall led the major European economies in February, as the steady return to the office increased shopper numbers in many towns and city centres.

“A promising start to the month was briefly dampened by Storm Eunice, before bouncing back in the final week of February, to its highest level since the pandemic began. This coincided with the easing of Covid restrictions in England. Overall, the major cities enjoyed the biggest improvements, particularly London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

“Retailers, large and small, will welcome the return of customers to their stores – a sign their innovation and investment in their physical and digital offerings is working. However, challenges remain; consumer confidence has been greatly impacted by rising inflation, while the return of hospitality and tourism will create additional competition. Retailers will need to continue the momentum to keep consumers engaged.”

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