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Freedom Day ignites post-pandemic footfall bounce back

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Retail Experts Springboard are forecasting that UK footfall will rise by +19.7% this week following ‘Freedom Day’, as covid restrictions such as face coverings and social distancing, are no longer mandatory in England.

Whilst the removal of restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be as comprehensive as they will be in England, the fact that footfall in England accounts for around 85% of all footfall in the UK, will drive an uplift in overall shopper activity.

Latest insight from Springboard reveals that footfall will peak over the course of the first weekend of freedom with rises of +32.2% on Friday 23 July and +39.5% on Saturday 24 July.

Over the course of the week, footfall across all UK retail destinations is anticipated to be only -20.1% below the same week in 2019, before the covid pandemic.

The magnitude of the increase in footfall is expected to vary across the three key retail destination types.

High streets will see an increase of +25% where footfall will be supported by the increased customer numbers that will be allowed in restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, due to the removal of social distancing measures that currently limit venue capacities.

However, with 74% of all footfall occurring between 6am and 5pm, and a further 16% between 5pm and 8pm it is the increased volume during daytime and early evening hours that will fuel this increase rather than night time footfall which is typically driven by nightclubs and bars.

In shopping centres, footfall is expected to rise by +18% over the week, the rise will be more modest as although home to hospitality outlets, they do not tend to have an active evening and late night economy.

The rise in footfall in retail parks is expected to be lowest at +10%, as customer numbers in these destinations have already bounced back to a greater extent that in the other two destination types.

The anticipated uplift following Phase 3 of the governments easing of restrictions is forecast to be significantly greater than the +1% rise that occurred when indoor hospitality reopened in May 2021 as phase 2.

However, as retail stores are already trading and indoor hospitality is operational, footfall across the UK will not see the same rise of +87.8% which occurred during phase 1 when non-essential retail reopened in April 2021, following lockdown 3.

Springboard highlight that ‘Freedom Day’ coincides with the end of the school year.

As summer holidays commence across the UK, footfall is expected to gain momentum as the week’s progress, particularly if the weather is warm and dry and many Brit’s enjoy a ‘Summer Staycation’. Springboard forecast a week on week rise +8.1% on Monday 19th July to +39.5% on Saturday 24th July.

In high streets, with its plentiful offer of hospitality outlets, the gain in footfall on Saturday is expected to reach +52% from the week before and by +42% in shopping centres.

Commenting on the stats, Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, commented: ““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.

“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.”

Adding: “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. Additionally, many workers have not yet returned to their offices and are unlikely to do so full time, which particularly impacts larger towns and cities the volumes of footfall are greatest.”

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