Will the high street be saved by people returning to work and staycationing in the UK?
6 September 2021 by Emily Wickington
Since August 16th and the government relaxation on mask-wearing and self-isolation in England, the streets are slowly becoming busier, with people holidaying in the UK and visiting friends and family the footfall is beginning to increase, but will this be enough to save the high streets?
The Financial Times has reported that the footfall in August did rise by 10% from that in July and reached the highest reading since the start of the pandemic, although it was still down 18% from August 2019. This suggests there is still a long way to go before visits to stores are the same as they used to be, implying there are long-term challenges for physical stores resulting from the pandemic.
Focusing on the positives, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), did state that “following months of little improvement, August footfall was a tentative step in the right direction”. This positivity may come from the BRC data which showed that in the final week of August the increase rose to 84% of the pre-pandemic levels. The strongest improvement was recorded in retail parks, which were only 1.6% down from their pre-pandemic levels as they rose 13% in comparison to July.
Despite these increases in footfall and store visits compared with the last few months, it is beginning to show the changing of trends which has resulted from the pandemic, with more people continuing to work from home and the growth of online sales not slowing down. In addition, some people have arguably re-evaluated what is essential to them and may have changed their spending habits as a result.
Not only this, with the ongoing disruption to stock availability due to lack of HGV drivers, the pandemic and Brexit resulting in major shortages, retail stores may struggle to meet any elevated levels of demand placed upon them by increased footfall.
All of this poses the question; will the high street need to re-invest itself to survive? If so, it may do it by providing more leisure and activity based properties, or by bringing back staple food shops which were taken over previously by cheap fashion; such as butchers, bakers and greengrocers.
If you are a business owner, tenant or landlord and require some help in buying, selling or leasing a high street property, please do get in touch with our commercial property team on 01206 835316 or email [email protected].
*With thanks to The Financial Times 3 September 2021