Weekend retail footfall is starting to match pre-Covid levels
How important are weekend shoppers? Very, with UK retail becoming “increasingly dependent” on Saturday and Sunday footfall, according to MRI Springboard, as the shift to hybrid working “continues to establish itself”.
The data firm’s survey last month found that 56% of employees now plan to work at home for at least part of the week -- up from 53% in November 2022 – “so footfall recovery to pre-pandemic levels has been stronger at weekends”.
In fact, the gap last month compared to February 2019 is now standing at just -9.3% at weekends compared to -15.4% during the weekday period.
Meanwhile, footfall across all UK destinations in February proved to be “remarkably resilient”, given the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, with a 9.4% rise compared to January. With the exception of 2021, this was the largest monthly increase in February since 2010, noted MRI Springboard.
Footfall in high streets last month was 16.1% higher than in February 2022, up 9.7% in shopping centres and 1.4% higher in retail parks.
Footfall rose by 7.6% from the second to the third week of February due to the school half-term, but it fell back by -5.3% from the third to the fourth week.
However, covering the four-week period (29 January-25 February), footfall remained 12.2% below the corresponding 2019 period. The gap in footfall from 2019 widened in February to -12.5% from -12.3% in January. It was -15.1% in high streets, -16.1% in shopping centres and -3.3% in retail parks.
But the uplift from January “suggests that this ongoing gap from the pre-pandemic footfall level is due more to a reduction in footfall as a consequence of hybrid working rather than the under-performance of retail”, MRI Springboard stressed.
It added: “The evidence is demonstrating that with each passing month hybrid working is becoming even more established and is set to be an even more permanent way of working for many.
“Inevitably this is starting to reveal an emerging structural shift in consumer behaviour that is demonstrating that the weekend is becoming even more important in terms of generating footfall.”
It also said this is “evidenced very clearly” by the greater recovery in footfall back to the pre-pandemic level during the weekend. In addition to this, in February, the weekend accounted for 29.8% of the total week’s footfall volume which has increased from 28.9% in 2019.
“With this ‘great return to the Saturday shopping day out’ we are seeing an increased demand from consumers wanting experience shopping vs necessity shopping, which means that retail destinations need to invest in their experience offer in order to keep consumers engaged”.
This is demonstrated by changes in shopping habits among those consumers who work in a hybrid way; nearly a quarter visit destinations less frequently than before Covid, those who spend longer on each trip has increased by a third since November 2022 and a quarter either combine shopping with leisure activities more and/or visit during the evening and at the weekend.
“All of the evidence is therefore pointing towards a significant shift in the usage of retail destinations moving forward. This will ultimately act as a catalyst for business owners and managers to adapt their operations to focus even more on the weekend period if they are to prosper in the post-Covid economic environment”.
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