This December will be more important for retailers than ever, the British Independent Retailers Association says.
Bira – umbrella group of the Pet Product Retail Association – is urging shoppers to hit the High Street again when non-essential retail reopens today.
There has never been a more important time for shoppers to get out and support their local independent retailers, Bira says.
Non-essential retail in England has been closed since November 5, 2020, as part of Government measures to stop the spread of covid-19. It is allowed to reopen today (December 2). Pet shops have been classed as key retailers and allowed to remain open throughout both lockdowns. Garden centres were closed last time but allowed to open during Lockdown 2.
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said: “This December is the most important December ever for many independent retailers who’ve been closed for the last four weeks.
“December is traditionally a crucial time for indies and this one will be even more so as they try and make the most of the run-up to Christmas.
“We are urging shoppers to get back on to the high street and support their local independent retailers, who have worked so hard to make shopping a safe and pleasant experience.
“We hope shoppers will come flocking back to the high streets and take advantage of all the shops being open in a safe environment. There will be a fabulously festive atmosphere and customers will be able to enjoy a traditional Christmas shopping experience.”
But delivery service comparison site ParceHero warns that Christmas retail footfall could fall by 50% despite 24-hour shopping.
The High Street’s ‘Welcome-Back Wednesday’ will do little to ease the surge in online shopping, the home delivery expert forecasts.
It says the end of the first lockdown proved a damp squib for town centre stores, which shouldn’t pin their hopes on a last-minute Christmas bounce-back.
The news that the Government is clearing the way for stores to be open 24 hours a day in December and January will do little to lure shoppers back to the High Street, it says.
When stores re-opened in June after the first lockdown, the initial flurry soon collapsed, with footfall down -58.4% YOY in the weeks following reopening.
This time around, circumstances are even more prohibitive. The combination of strict regional tiers and cold weather are unlikely to entice shoppers back to the High Street at the end of Lockdown 2, says ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks.
“In the weeks after the first lockdown ended, High Street footfall was nearly 60% down YOY, according to the British Retail Consortium. It looks highly likely the same retail wretchedness will be repeated on the High Street over the Christmas season.
“When non-essential stores threw open their doors at the end of the last lockdown, hopes for a resurgence proved ill-founded. Compared to pre-pandemic shopping levels in February, High Street clothing store sales collapsed by -50% and department stores were down by over -28% in June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)…
“Christmas means shoppers’ return to the High Street will be stronger than the brief uptick at the end of the previous lockdown, but far below the traditional December boom. At the end of the last lockdown, 70% of shoppers were ‘not comfortable’ about returning to shops, according to research from consultants EY. The latest ONS research, released on November 23, found that 46% of Brits remain ‘actively scared’ about contracting coronavirus when going outside. Cautious consumers will be doing their best to avoid busy shops over Christmas.
“It stands to reason, therefore, that faced with a choice between staying safe and warm shopping online or braving the winter weather, most shoppers will choose the former. That’s why we predict town centre footfall will be over 50% down on last year, while online will grab just over half of all retail sales for the first time.
“It’s all very well for the Government to give the go-ahead to stores, working with local councils, to introduce round-the-clock opening hours. However, if they think scores of shoppers will be thronging the High Street at 4am on a frosty December night, even to bag some Primark bargains, they are sadly mistaken.
“One positive result could come out of these plans, however. Retailers have been given the go-ahead to accept deliveries outside normal hours, which will reduce congestion and pollution.”