Food retail remains ‘resilient’ as footfall bounces back

22 July 2021, 08:08 AM
  • Experts are predicting the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ will provide a boost to retail sales
Food retail remains ‘resilient’ as footfall bounces back

Retail footfall is expected to jump by nearly 20% this week following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England on 19th July. Although some voiced fear that the changes to mask wearing and social distancing rules would damage consumer confidence, Springboard forecasted UK footfall would rise by 19.7% from the previous week following so-called ‘Freedom Day’.

While masks are no longer required by law in England, many retailers are suggesting that customers continue to wear face coverings to keep staff and other customers safe.

Springboard said footfall would peak over the weekend, with rises of 32.2% on Friday 23rd July and 29.5% on Saturday 24th July. Over the course of the week, footfall across the UK is expected to be only around 20% below the same week in 2019.

“The long-awaited ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday will see footfall bounce back across the UK, to a more significant magnitude than when indoor hospitality reopened in May, with rises seen across all three retail destinations,” said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

She predicted that further increases in footfall are on the horizon. “With summer holiday commencing and many opting for a summer staycation in the UK, footfall will continue to rise throughout July and into August as many look to enjoy the good weather.”

Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, said that the food and drink sector in particular “continued to put in a resilient performance this month; comparisons to 2020 remain challenging thanks to the impact of last year’s lockdown, but sales are still significantly elevated against 2019 levels”.

“As restrictions continue to ease, IGD ShopperVista insight signals a return to more established shopping behaviour; one in five (22%) of shoppers made more trips to stores in June to buy food and groceries, compared to just 15% in May ‘21,” Susan said. “As people get out and about more, food-to-go missions are also recovering; 20% of shoppers carried out a food-to-go mission on their most recent trip, compared to 16% last month. As restrictions are lifted and with the end of the working from home directive, it is likely that we will see food-to-go missions continue to recover and grow.”

This comes as the retail sector notched its best quarter on record in the second quarter of 2021. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said growth was “exceptional” as the economy gradually unlocked over the quarter, “[encouraging] a release of pent-up demand built up over previous lockdowns”.

“With many people taking staycations, or cheaper UK-based holidays, many have found they have a little extra to spend at the shops, with strong growth in-store in June,” added Helen. The start of Euro 2020 also provided a boost for snack food and beer.

Shopper safety is essential

Yet despite these rises, the removal of Covid restrictions is likely to hit some consumers’ confidence levels. “Despite the removal of Covid restrictions, the recently increased infection rate is likely to make some shoppers more cautious about venturing out into what could be busy shopping environments,” Diane said.

Helen agreed that ensuring that shoppers feel safe and supported while in retail establishments will be important in the recovery of footfall figures. “Consumer comfort with the next stage of the roadmap will be key to the ongoing success of retail,” she said. “Many customers are looking forward to a return to a more normal shopping experience, while others may be discouraged by the change in face covering rules.” By providing a safe and comfortable shopping experience, fine food independents will help push the industry towards its recovery.

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