Retail

UK Consumers Start Slow Return To Stores

UK High Street shopper

The U.K. retail recovery continues, but at a snail’s pace. According to the British Retail Consortium, U.K. foot traffic decreased by 42.1 percent in July over 2019 levels, an improvement from June’s 62.6 percent and below the three-month average decline of 61.6 percent. The trade group’s survey also showed that the reopening of pubs and restaurants did provide a small boost to retail traffic.

The group did report that U.K. consumers are returning to physical stores. Sixty-two percent of those consumers say they feel comfortable buying their groceries in a physical store, although less than half (42 percent) are comfortable going to a non-food shop to buy. The survey, carried out between July 31 and Aug. 4, showed an improvement from the previous week when 56 percent said they were comfortable about buying groceries, and 38 percent about non-grocery visits. This, says the BRC, could be due to mandated safety measures such as face masks in store.

“With retail footfall recovering slower than in many other European countries, much will depend how fast consumer demand returns,” BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said in the group’s news release. “Retailers have put in place a variety of measures to keep shoppers and staff safe, from regular cleaning and hand sanitizer, to one-way systems and Perspex screens at tills. We now need Government to play their part by providing clear plans for schools, transport, and office working, all of which impact the way we shop. The safety of the public is a top priority and we believe clear communication will help build public confidence and help bolster local high streets and shopping centers during the summer months.”

Saying safety is a top concern, Dickinson noted the recovery will depend on restoring consumer confidence. “It remains too soon to say how well retail will recover in the coming months, but it clearly remains a difficult trading period for many physical retailers,” she said.

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