16 April 2021, 08:00 AM
  • Farm shops and delis are benefitting from the easing of lockdown restrictions and growing shopper confidence
Surge in footfall boosts indie food retailers

High streets and retail destinations are filling up again after non-essential shops had the green light to open in England and Wales on 12th April. Footfall in UK retail destinations soared by 155.2% week-on-week, according to data from Springboard.

In shopping centres, footfall was up by a staggering 225%, while in high streets it grew by 176%. “The first day of retail reopening was an amazingly positive result and one which finally offers retailers with some positive news,” said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard. “The strong uplift highlights that consumer demand is higher than even forecasted and shows that bricks and mortar still holds a key position within the retail sector.”

“A forgotten energy is returning”

While long queues were reported at clothing shops like Primark and hairdressing salons, food and drink retailers also noticed a positive impact on their sales.

“As a new business (we opened our doors in December), it was a relief to be able to keep trading through lockdown, but it has been tough,” Julia Kirby-Smith of London-based Fridge of Plenty told Speciality Food. “Our online/home delivery side of the business saw us through, and it’s brilliant to see customers walk into the shop now who we first got to know online.

“This week, a lot of people are popping in saying ‘Oh, you’re new!’ because they haven’t been out browsing the high street for months,” Julia continued. “We love it when we’re discovered for the first time and can show a new customer around our range.”

Charlie Hodson of Hodson & Co Cheese Rooms in Norfolk also noticed consumers’ moods shift. “As the pavements slowly come back to life, in the blink of an eye a forgotten energy is returning to our local high streets,” he said. “For some of our customers it’s been three months of staying at home and only venturing out for the most essential journey.

“We have noticed more customers visiting our shop over the past few days. With a feeling of reassurance for so many of us, whether in retail or the hospitality industry. So for Hodson & Co it’s just a simple, beautiful thing to see folk out and about, and we are so very blessed and thankful to have their support as an independent cheese and deli shop,” he said.

Farm shops and delis with on-site cafés or restaurants will also be breathing a sigh of relief as those with outdoor seating can begin to welcome customers back in England. Charlotte Wells-Thompson of Bert’s Barrow farm shop told Speciality Food, “I’m excited at the prospect of getting back to normal, with customers able to enjoy a coffee or ice cream on site rather than being worried about getting a £10k fine. Our first street food night is on Friday which is fully booked, so it’s all looking good.”

In central London, where the retail sector has been hardest hit by Covid, footfall on 12th April rose by more than 200%, but in regional cities and market towns the result was even more positive, with footfall in cities ending up just 27% below the 2019 level and in towns just 6.8% below 2019.

Shopper confidence also remains at its highest level in more than a year, according to IGD’s latest Shopper Confidence Index.

While the future remains uncertain, these hopeful signs of recovery signal a brighter summer for food and drink retailers.

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