As stores reopened last month, total UK footfall decreased Yo2Y by 40.0%, reports BRC-Sensormatic IQ. High street footfall declined by -43.9% (Yo2Y), retail parks saw footfall decrease by -30.5% (Yo2Y) and shopping centre footfall declined by -49.8% (Yo2Y).

Northern Ireland saw the steepest footfall decline of all nations at -55.4%, followed by Scotland at -52.1% and England at -38.4. Wales saw the shallowest decline, at -38.2% (all figures Yo2Y).

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE says: “With the easing of restrictions on retail and some hospitality on 12th April, consumers have been returning to their local high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. This is reflected in the improving levels of footfall seen across the country, as consumers visit their favourite stores post-lockdown.

"While shops have worked incredibly hard to provide consumers with a safe and enjoyable shopping experience, it is unlikely we will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of footfall anytime soon, as social distancing measures naturally restrict retailers’ capacity. Retail parks continued to fare better than shopping centres and high streets, as they benefit from the presence of large stores, more space and on-site parking. However, it was encouraging to see footfall improve across all retail sites compared to the lockdown months.

“Growing consumer demand and footfall in the months ahead will be vital for the survival of many retailers, as they start to see costs increasing as stores reopen and colleagues return from furlough. With full business rates relief ending in England in June, the ongoing rates review needs to deliver on its objectives to reform the broken rates system and reduce the financial pressures on retailers, otherwise many stores and viable jobs will be under threat.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, adds: “April’s reopening of retail saw a welcome boost for the high street. While footfall still remains -40% down compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, consumer demand signals for a return to in-store shopping were promising – despite occupancy limits restricting the numbers of customers allowed inside, shoppers happily braved long queues to get back in-store and shop their favourite brands in real life, after months confined to shopping from behind a screen.

"Retailers will be hoping that the lift in shopper traffic seen during the first few weeks of unlocking can be sustained past pent-up demand in order to fuel long-term recovery. Our research shows an overwhelming amount of consumer support for bricks-and-mortar retail, with 71% of shoppers vowing to make a conscious effort to shop in-store now retail’s reopened, with many having missed the experience of in-store shopping when lockdown shuttered shops and others saying ‘screen fatigue’ had set in. Retailers will be counting on shoppers acting on that sentiment and voting with their feet to support the shops that serve their communities.”