Patchy UK Easter footfall ends on positive note, but leisure is the key draw
UK consumers appeared to be in the mood to go out and maybe even to shop over the long Easter weekend with new figures showing higher footfall to British high streets.
Specialist tracking firm Springboard said footfall rose 1.2% from Good Friday through to Sunday, compared to Easter weekend last year. But while overall footfall (including trips to retail parks and shopping centres) was down 2% on Friday through Sunday, by noon on Monday it was tracking 3.4% higher. This should tip the retail sector as a whole into positive territory for the complete four-day weekend.
The researchers said spring-like weather and leisure trips were the key growth drivers with the Easter weekend living up to expectations as the most anticipated weekend for retail after Christmas.
Springboard Insights Director Diane Wehrle said Easter was a tale of two halves. Footfall declined on Good Friday by 5.9%, but increased 4.6% on Saturday compared to last year. While Easter Sunday wasn’t a retail trading day for much of the country, footfall on high streets, many of which staged events over Easter, increased 1.8%.
UPS AND DOWNS
Wehrle said that the Good Friday dip this time could have been due to last year’s equivalent day being warm and sunny, which was a pleasant surprise given that it happened earlier in the year (in March). But the weather quickly turned grey and wet for the rest of 2016’s Easter weekend. This year, while Saturday and Sunday didn’t match the balmy weather of seven days earlier, it was still relatively bright and mild.
So what else do the figures tell us? The trend for increased footfall outside of retail hours continued, indicating food and beverage outlets were a key driver of shopper footfall. On Good Friday, footfall dropped 8.2% during the day but post-5pm dropped just 1.3%. On Easter Saturday, daytime footfall rose 1.3% and a further 18.9% post-5pm.
Wehrle said: “This is believed to be a consequence of the worsening of consumer confidence and inflation, which has led to more conservative shopper spending on retail goods and their increased preference for spending on experiences.”
This is also believed to be the driver of UK high streets’ success. They outperformed retail parks and shopping centres for the weekend to date, which saw decreases of 2.3% and 8%, respectively.
That view is borne out by anecdotal evidence too. This reporter was surprised by slow footfall at the giant Bluewater centre in Kent on Saturday morning but was equally surprised at how relatively busy it seemed on easter Monday morning.
Wehrle added: “High streets have led the surge in footfall across the UK this Easter due to their adaptability and diverse hospitality offering, which supports their ability to respond to trends more quickly than retail parks and shopping centres.”
But does this all add up to bad news for fashion stores? Yes and no. Consumers are clearly cautious about buying products at the moment but they’re not completely holding back from buying online.
PCA Predict, whose data is released alongside that of springboard, said online transactions increased 12.4% on Good Friday, counter-balancing the footfall decline. That said, online went into reverse on Saturday (dropping 4.4%) as the weather was vastly improved on last year’s rain and shoppers decided to venture in-store instead.
Mobile transactions fuelled online activity, with a 9.9% rise in transactions compared with a 12.7% computer shopping drop. And while tablets rose only 2.5%, it’s clear that they remain a significant device type for shopping.
The West End of London has performed better than last Easter with a rise in footfall of 6.8% on Good Friday and Easter Sunday compared with the same days in 2016.
Kyle Monk, Head of Insights at the area’s trade body, the New West End Company, hailed the increase “despite concerns of inflation and consumer confidence impacting the high street.”
He said a currency advantage for overseas visitors helped to reinforce the area’s appeal as a key destination while the West End remains important for domestic visitors, especially as it remains the main location for brands to open flagship stores.
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