High street

Scotland Suffers 48% Decline in Boxing Day Footfall Compared With Pre-Pandemic Levels

In England, Boxing Day shopping footfall fell by 40% from 2019, whereas Scotland experienced a steeper decline at 48%. BBC News has more.

Shopping footfall in Scotland was 48% below Boxing Day 2019, before the pandemic.

That was a steeper fall than any region of England, where footfall was down 40%.

However, it was more than a three-fold increase on Boxing Day last year in Scotland, with lockdown restrictions being reintroduced.

Across the U.K., suburban and smaller towns did better for shopping activity, while shopping malls did least well.

Apart from the risk of Covid infection, other reasons for the low figures include some shops choosing to close to give staff a further day off, and lower numbers for a Sunday.

On Monday morning, shopper footfall on Scottish high streets and at retail centres was down by 38% on the levels seen two days after Christmas in 2019.

That is a slightly larger drop than the data, from Springboard retail consultancy, for the whole U.K. shows.

Early indications are that people have returned in larger numbers to retail parks to restock groceries following Christmas, while high streets and shopping malls have taken a bigger hit from consumer caution about Covid infection.

Worth reading in full.

Almost 50 Shop Closures a Day in First Half of 2021

New research has found there were almost 50 shop closures a day in the first half of 2021, with the high street suffering the worst and almost all types of chain stores seeing a decline (unsurprisingly, takeaways and job centres grew in the period). BBC News has the story.

More than 8,700 chain stores closed in British high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in the first six months of this year, research suggests. …

But despite some high-profile retail failures, the number of closures has fallen compared with a year earlier.

City centres have suffered the worst, while retail parks are faring better.

The store closure figures were collected by the Local Data Company on behalf of accountancy firm PwC.

“After an acceleration in store closures last year couple[d] with last minute Christmas tier restrictions and lockdowns extending into 2021, we might have expected a higher number of store closures this year,” says Lisa Hooker, consumer markets lead at PwC.

She believes continued Government support combined with resilient consumer spending has helped many operators weather the storm and survive the pandemic.

The Local Data Company tracked more than 200,000 stores operated by businesses with more five outlets across Great Britain. These include everything from retail and restaurants, to cafes, banks and gyms. …

Fashion retailers recorded the biggest decline reflecting the collapse of Sir Philip Green’s retail empire which saw his brands, including TopShop and Dorothy Perkins, disappear from the High Street.

More than 120 department stores also shut for good. 

There was also a decline in car showrooms, betting shops and banks, providing yet more evidence of changing shopping behaviour and the shift to online.

Data also shows that store openings were at their lowest level for six years. Leisure dominated the growth with takeaway chains leading the way.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdowns Have Cost £22 Billion in Lost Sales, Say British Retailers

Lockdowns across 2020 alone cost British “non-essential” retail £22 billion in lost sales, according to a new analysis by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). All the while, online retail profits – such as for the fashion retailer ASOS – have soared. Here are the key findings:

2020 was the worst year on record for retail sales growth with in-store non-food declining by 24% compared with 2019. These results have also been reflected in footfall, which was down over 40% in 2020. After some retailers embraced rapid increases in demand, others found their doors closed for the third time at the end of last year.

The BRC calculates that the three lockdowns cost “non-food” stores – mainly “non-essential” retail – an estimated £22 billion in lost sales. Furthermore, tighter restrictions in the crucial run-up to Christmas hampered retailers’ ability to generate much-needed turnover, which would have helped power their recovery in 2021. Retailers contributed £17 billion in business taxes in 2019, collecting a further £46 billion in VAT. A strong retail sector is essential to ensuring these future revenue streams for Government and local councils, vital for supporting local communities.

A recent study by the Local Data Company found that 11,000 shops permanently closed in the UK in 2020. This is expected to be followed by a further 18,000 closures in 2021.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC, said that retail firms are in desperate need of support from the Government in order to continue trading.

After 2020 proved to be the worst year on record, it is essential that the Chancellor uses the Spring budget to support those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. Vital support in the form of an extension to the business rates relief and moratorium on debt enforcement, as well as removing state aid caps on Covid business grants, would relieve struggling businesses of bills they cannot currently pay and allow them to trade their way to recovery.

Tackling the challenge of Rates, Rents and Grants should be the Government’s immediate priority to ensuring the survival and revival of non-essential retailers and protecting the jobs of hundreds of thousands of retail workers across the country. The investment we provide to retailers now, will be repaid many times over through more jobs and greater tax revenues in the future.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian has detailed the ways in which various “non-essential” retailers are planning to make real-life shopping trips “a pastime once again” when lockdown is eased slightly on Monday.

Marks & Spencer will instigate “greeters” at the doors of its stores, and contact-free bra fittings. There will be edits designed for current lifestyles, from barbecues in the garden, to working from home. 

At John Lewis, Beautycycle will be in place from April 19th. For every five items of beauty packaging returned, customers will get £10 off their next beauty purchase until the end of April.

Gap will be offering free masks with a purchase to those with their Gap+ app, and Primark will be open two more hours every day next week.

Other retailers are taking a playful approach. River Island, which will launch stores in Coventry and Swindon next week, has a “shop like it’s 2019” campaign; one sign in store says: “In 2019 pyjamas were not acceptable work attire.” Anyone who makes a purchase in April will receive a voucher for 20.19% off their next purchase.

Worth reading in full.

Online Retail Profits Soar While High Street Suffers

The success of online retail over the past year of lockdowns is showcased by ASOS, the online fashion retailer, which has seen its active customer numbers rise from 1.5 million to 24.9 million in the six months to February. The impact of lockdowns on the high street has, on the other hand, been catastrophic. Eleven thousand shops in Britain closed last year alone and thousands more are expected to close in 2021. The Guardian has the story.

ASOS has more than tripled first-half profits to a record £106 million and raised full-year expectations as the online retailer continues to benefit from the pandemic.

Consumer trends accelerated by Covid had boosted trading, particularly in the UK and most of Europe, the company said, but it cautioned that the economic outlook was uncertain and shopping habits would change once clothing stores reopen next week.

While the reopening of “non-essential” shops next week will shift consumer attention from online to the high street, the continued imposition of rules on social distancing and mask-wearing will act as a brake on any recovery for the high street. ASOS said in a statement:

In the coming months we expect a portion of consumer demand will move back to stores as restrictions are eased throughout our markets, but we expect online penetration to remain structurally higher than pre-Covid levels.

The company’s recent performance is as follows:

Profits increased 253% year-on-year increase to £106.4 million in the six months to February 28th, as total group revenues climbed 24% to £1.97 billion.

Asos put a number on the amount of profit generated by the pandemic, identifying £48.5 million of “net Covid tailwind”. …

The company said the Topshop and Miss Selfridge brands as well as the activewear label HIIT, acquired from Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia empire for £330 million in February, had been “seamlessly” integrated into its online platform and had achieved “great early customer momentum”.

The number of active customers rose by 1.5 million to 24.9 million, which the company said was a good performance given the lockdown had led to fewer “event-led” reasons for people to shop for formal and occasionwear.

Last month, we reported on the damage done to the high street by the lockdowns and the tough restrictions in between. A study by the Local Data Company found that 11,000 shops permanently closed in the UK in 2020. This is expected to be followed by a further 18,000 closures in 2021.

Shops Could Stay Open Until 10pm Six Days a Week After Lockdown

In an attempt to boost sales and increase safety after lockdown(s), the Government has announced that retailers will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week when they reopen. The Guardian has the story.

The Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said extended opening hours from Monday to Saturday will help shoppers return to high streets safely when non-essential shops reopen from April 12th.

Shops will be able to extend their opening hours from 7am to 10pm to help customers avoid peak times and ease transport pressures, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Under the “roadmap” for easing lockdown measures, non-essential retailers could reopen from April 12th at the earliest, provided conditions are met.

Announcing the temporary measures, Jenrick said: “To support businesses to reopen and recover, I’ve extended measures to allow shops to stay open for longer. This is part of a package of support to help reopen our shops and high streets safely – backed by £56 million.”

The Government has announced that it will also extend flexible working hours on construction sites – one among a raft of measures intended to help make up for the losses suffered by retailers over the past year.

Earlier this week, the Local Data Company released a study showing that 11,000 outlets permanently closed in 2020. It expects that this will be followed by 18,000 more closures in 2021. The Guardian highlighted that the real impact of lockdown on businesses may be worse than the current figures indicate.

The true impact of the pandemic has yet to become apparent. Many outlets included in the research were temporarily closed during lockdowns and were not counted as shut but may never reopen after restrictions are relaxed next month.

The report on extended opening times is worth reading in full.