Customers keen to get back into shops once restrictions are lifted

Footfall in the UK is predicted to increase by nearly 50% when non-essential retail restrictions are eased next month.

New figures from insights company Springboard suggest that footfall will rise by 47.9% from 12 April – the date earmarked for when non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality businesses in England can open their doors again.

With England home to roughly 84% of the UK’s population, the jump in footfall figures is expected to rise sharply year-on-year when lockdown comes to an end there.

Other parts of the UK plan to ease restrictions at different times. Wales has pushed back opening stores from 15 March to the same date as England, while Scotland plans to open its non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality businesses from 26 April. In Northern Ireland, the lockdown review has been extended to 1 April, so non-essential shops will stay closed until at least that date.

According to the Springboard data, England’s high streets will experience the sharpest rise in footfall – set to increase 59% week-on-week in the week starting 11 April. During those seven days it is predicted that footfall in shopping centres will rise by 46%, and in retail parks by 26%.

This cautious optimism is echoed in market research firm GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index, which rose five points in February this year to -23. There’s still some way to go, with the figure significantly below the -7 score recorded in February 2020 as the pandemic was just emerging.

While the roll-out of the vaccination is giving people renewed confidence, consumer confidence will take time to improve.

However, as the economy reopens, the retail industry is hoping that a strong initial uplift in April will continue over the summer months.

Speaking about the findings, Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said: “Lockdown fatigue is at its height and the increases in footfall over the last five weeks have indicated the pent-up demand for a return to normality.”

She continued: “By mid-April, consumers will be looking for sensory and social retail experiences, reconnecting with their favourite brands and purchasing new wardrobes for a summer of social events.”

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