LONDON — Ten weeks in lockdown and loads of sunshine over the long weekend drove Britons out of their homes — and onto high streets across the country — despite the fact that most stores here won’t reopen until June 15.
Springboard, which measures footfall on behalf of retailers, said Tuesday that high streets across the U.K. reported an increase in traffic during the long weekend, which ran from May 23 to 25, compared with Easter weekend last month. On Monday, a national holiday here, footfall increased by 49 percent compared with Easter Monday.
Footfall in outdoor shopping centers increased by 42 percent this past Saturday compared with Easter Saturday. In the coastal and historic towns, turnout was even higher, with footfall on May 25 some 62 percent higher, and 59 percent higher, respectively, compared with Easter Monday.
The spike in people taking trips to coastal destinations, shopping centers and town centers comes three weeks ahead of the official reopening of all nonessential retail on June 15 as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
“We anticipate that once stores open on June 15 — and despite the rise in online shopping that has been recorded — the evident pent-up demand to go out will absolutely translate into (increased retail) footfall,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director.
Her comments came with a caveat: She said that an anticipated spending spike “could possibly be short-lived as consumers will be cautious and looking to rein in spending due to ongoing financial uncertainty in many U.K. households. The safety of shoppers and workers will be paramount, so retailers over the coming weeks will need to work hard to ensure that customer occupancy measures in stores and destinations are in place, and carefully managed so that social distancing measures can be implemented successfully.”
Wehrle’s comments about spending echoed those of the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane, who said there would be a period of “prolonged caution” after lockdown is lifted, with the speed and strength of the U.K. economic recovery unclear.
Separately, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive officer of New West End Co., which represents 600 retailers and businesses in London’s West End, said his organization has been working with the British government for the past two weeks to ensure that “all nonessential retailers are allowed to reopen on the same date.”
He said that in the lead up to June 15, NWEC will be working with city and transport officials to ensure that the West End “is in the best possible position to safely, and sustainably, reopen to colleagues and customers.”
The U.K. Fashion & Textile Association has sent out an advisory to members to follow government advice, emphasizing that ahead of reopening, all businesses should increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleansing; make every effort to maintain the two meter (6.6 feet) physical distancing guidelines; use screens where possible; reduce the number of people operating at one time, and give particular thought to protecting the most vulnerable.
As of June 1, outdoor markets and businesses with big showrooms — such as car dealerships — will be able to open in England, with other retailers opening two weeks later.