Monday 24 August 2020 11:46 am

UK retail sector enjoys ‘significant’ jump in footfall as economy recovers

The number of visits to UK retail destinations jumped last week as the economy’s recovery picked up steam, new data has shown, with London a particular bright spot.

Footfall was up 4.1 per cent in the 16 to 22 August period compared to the previous week, data firm Springboard said today.

Read more: UK retail sales climb above pre-pandemic levels in July

The rise was “a significant acceleration” compared to the previous week’s increase of 0.8 per cent, Springboard said.

Footfall jumped by 6.8 per cent in greater London and 7.1 per cent in the south east. The two regions generate a far greater volume of footfall than elsewhere, pushing up the national figure.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, suggested new travel quarantine rules had boosted UK retail.

“It seems that the increased quarantine measures imposed last week on a number of overseas destinations are having a positive impact on UK footfall,” she said.

Werhle said that footfall in UK retail destinations “not only rose on a week on week basis”. But “the uplift was more than four times as large as the week before”.

It comes after a survey showed that the UK private sector grew at its fastest pace in seven years in August.

The “PMI” survey suggested improved consumer optimism and the government’s “eat out to help out” scheme had boosted the UK’s all-important services sector.

Retail sector still running well below normal

The Springboard data today showed the economy is far from operating at pre-Covid levels, however.

Footfall at all UK retail destinations was down 30.7 per cent last week compared to a year earlier. That included high streets, retail parks, and shopping centres.

On high streets in central London, footfall was down 61.2 per cent compared to 2019. In regional cities it was 49.8 per cent lower.

Read more: Coronavirus crisis: How far will the UK economy fall in 2020?

However, those figures have consistently improved, reflecting the reopening of the UK economy.

The UK is set for record-breaking economic growth in the third quarter, albeit from a very low base. GDP is set to grow 14.3 per cent quarter on quarter, according to forecasts averaged by the Treasury. 

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