We hope that the following is a blip rather than a worrying trend as retail saw a steep drop in footfall last week in what is traditionally one of the busier weeks in the calendar year. In fact the drop in Northern Ireland was the biggest recorded across the UK, leading to concerns that if this continues it could have a huge impact on our local economies.
Statistics Show Sharp Decrease
Statistics from retail research company Springboard show that between the 11th of July and the 17th of July there was a decrease in footfall of 7.4% compared to the previous week. To put that into perspective during this period the UK as a whole showed an increase of 0.9% in footfall. Also if you look at the stats on a year by year basis, footfall in Northern Ireland was up by just 16.2% compared to the same time last year, the lowest increase across the UK.
There Are Some Glimmers Of Hope
But you can find some glimmers of hope in the statistics thankfully. If you compare the footfall with the pre-pandemic era in 2019 (how long ago does that feel right now?!) you can see that footfall here is down by 21.2% which actually makes it the second best performing area in the UK, only very narrowly beaten by the south west of England. There is also a belief that footfall will show a very sharp increase this week as the UK celebrates so-called Freedom Day, where many of the restrictions on mask wearing, social distancing and gatherings have been lifted.
It is possible that the extremely hot weather we have had over the last few days could have had an impact on footfall in our town centres, with people preferring to be relaxing away from the busy streets, but the hot weather has been right across the UK, so maybe that is not such a valid reason. Sometimes there are just blips which are solely down to the vagaries of human behaviour so maybe this is just one of those. We will certainly find out if this is so in the coming weeks.
Increased Infection Rate Likely To Make Shoppers More Cautious
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, is quoted in the Belfast Telegraph on the decrease in footfall, saying:
“Despite the removal of Covid restrictions, the recently increased infection rate is likely to make some shoppers more cautious about venturing out into what could be busy shopping environments.
“Additionally, many workers have not yet returned to their offices and are unlikely to do so full time, which particularly impacts larger towns and cities where the volumes of footfall are greatest.”