Footfall in UK high streets and retail parks last month hit its highest level since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as increased domestic tourism boosted consumer activity.
Data from the retail tracker Springboard found the number of consumers visiting bricks-and-mortar shopping outlets rose by a quarter in August, helped by people choosing to take holidays at home this summer.
Footfall was still well down on its pre-pandemic levels in the same month of 2019 but the gap was below 20% for the first time since the virus first hit the UK in early 2020.
Springboard’s figures suggest consumers are returning to shopping in person rather than online after the lifting of restrictions. Footfall was 18.6% lower in August than in the same month two years ago, but that compared with a drop of 24.2% in July. The smaller decline in August footfall equated to an improvement of about a quarter.
Retail parks showed the strongest performance, with footfall down only 2.4% on August 2019. High street footfall was still showing a 23.5% decline, while shopping centre footfall was down 24%.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, said: “Despite restrictions being lifted for overseas travel, it is clear that Brits chose to stay home for the summer, which gave a welcome boost to high streets – and particularly those that are attractive visitor destinations such as coastal and historic towns.
“In large cities outside of the capital, the improvement in footfall in August was nearly double that in smaller high streets, putting them at a comparable level versus 2019 for the first time.”
In a separate report, Barclaycard said heavy consumer spending on leisure, entertainment and eating out had made the August bank holiday weekend the heaviest period for credit and debit card activity since Christmas Eve 2019. Transactions were up 14.4% on 2020 and 9.4% higher than in 2019.