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Retailers to suffer for ‘some time to come’, says BRC

Footfall across the UK tumbled by 81.6% in May, as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that retailers may suffer lower footfall and sales “for some time to come”.

According to its latest report,  the decline recorded in May marked a “shallower decline” than the month prior, as certain categories of shops were allowed to reopen. 

Nonetheless, high street footfall declined by 77.8% year-on-year, but “fared better” than shopping centres due to a rise in local convenience store popularity.

Meanwhile, retail parks saw footfall down by only 55% year-on-year, with BRC citing their wider, open spaces as a reason for its less drastic decline. 

Conversely, shopping centre footfall was the most “negatively affected” location, with footfall crashing 84.9% year-on-year. 

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “Retailers have been under immense pressure for the past three months but the reopening of non-essential shops from today is unlikely to deliver immediate relief. 

“A mix of low consumer confidence and limits on the number of people able to enter stores mean that many shops will continue to suffer lower footfall – and lower sales – for some time to come.” 

She added: “The Government should consider options to stimulate demand, such as a short-term reduction in VAT or a temporary income tax cut for lower-income workers. 

“As they return to serving the country, there is still a risk that many physical shops could end up closing their doors again – only this time, permanently.” 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant – EMEA of ShopperTrak, said: “All eyes are on the rest of retail now as doors start to open today. In the short term we expect consumers will visit less, but buy more each visit, making each shopper all the more precious. 

“Footfall has a totally new value. Retailers will have to adapt quickly on how to manage social distancing and site occupancy levels, and give consumers comfort as they start to come back.” 

He added: “Initially, consumers may give retailers some goodwill, but soon enough, if there’s a smaller queue, better managed carpark or a seemingly safer, easier shopping environment… shoppers will vote with their feet. 

“There are certainly tough times still ahead, but with our shops reopening we are one step closer to normality, and we welcome that.”   

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