LONDON (Reuters) – The number of British shoppers in early June indicate “a huge amount” of pent-up demand amongst consumers for shopping in physical stores as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, industry data showed on Monday.
Britain went into lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of the pandemic, with all retail stores deemed non-essential forced to close.
Some home stores and garden centres re-opened in mid-May and outdoor markets and car showrooms were allowed to open from June 1. All other non-essential retailers are set to follow from June 15 if the government’s social-distancing requirements are met.
“The limited evidence so far has suggested that, despite the growth in online shopping over the past two months, there is a huge amount of pent-up demand amongst consumers for bricks-and-mortar shopping,” said Diane Wehrle, director of market researcher Springboard.
She highlighted the “monumental queues” that built up at major home stores in the weekend before the official easing of lockdown restrictions in England on June 1.
Springboard found shopper numbers, or footfall, strengthened noticeably in retail parks over the first few days of the week following this, with the year-on-year decline averaging 42.9% versus 56.2% over the same days at the beginning of May.
For example, thousands of shoppers across England queued up for the re-opening of IKEA stores on June 1.
But Springboard noted that while retail parks were seeing some recovery in footfall, this was not the case for high streets and shopping centres, where the year-on-year decline in footfall over the few days since June 1 was still over 70.0%.
For the May 3 to May 30 period, overall UK footfall was down 73.3%, up from a record low of 80.1% in April, Springboard said.
An industry survey on Friday showed retail sales plunged by nearly a fifth in May.
(Reporting by James Davey, editing by Larry King)