If Monday’s around-the-block queues outside Primarks across the region are anything to go by, Britain hasn’t lost its appetite for physical retail, and footfall is likely to rise sharply this week as shops reopen, – although it will be interesting to see if this continues in the coming weeks.
As a whole, UK Footfall decreased by more than 80 per cent in May, according to the British Retail Consortium.
While Retail Parks saw less footfall decrease, 55 per cent, year on year, and they could be the early winners thanks to wider open spaces in comparison to other locations and a higher proportion of supermarkets helped to shelter Retail Parks from a steeper decline, Shopping Centre footfall declined by nearly 85 per cent year on year. They were the most negatively affected location, partly due to enclosed spaces making social distancing more of a challenge.
Undeterred, town and cities across the region have put superhuman efforts into getting their high streets ready.
From Gloucester to Worcester, Leamington Spa to Oxford, the local business improvement districts, councils and destination marketing organisations have put stencils and stickers on the ground placed two metres apart to remind people of the need to keep their distance.
In Gloucester, the city centre has been regularly cleaned throughout lockdown and will undergo two deep cleans before 15 June. There will also be increased cleaning of benches and bins going forward.
Cheltenham has launched a “We’re Open” campaign to promote Cheltenham as a destination for day visitors initially and positioning the town as the perfect place to visit, with wide open streets, plenty of public parks and fantastic shops, restaurants and bars.
Oxford City Council is introducing one-way pavements and a raft of other measures to help pedestrians maintain social distancing in Oxford. Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford has reopened, with some stores operating different opening hours.
Office workers returning to work in Oxford this week are being asked to help their local economy by only spending money in small independent shops and businesses for the next 3 months.
The campaign started by Oxford office space business Offices.co.uk is to encourage a shift in how we spend our money in and around our workplaces. They are asking all tenants to consider changing their spending habits away from National chains.
“Our clients know as much as anyone just how hard things are at the moment, however we are still buying coffee, lunch and supplies. This new campaign is to showcase local businesses and try and shift our spending habits into using the independent businesses we sometimes take for granted”, explains Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk.
In Worcester, a one-way system has been set up in Crowngate shopping centre, and Worcester BID is urging people to come out in support of local businesses.
Samantha McCarthy, Projects and Marketing Manager at Worcester BID said: “Today we see Worcester’s shops and businesses beginning to re-open. Please understand they may have just survived one of the hardest challenges they have ever faced. We ask you to support the businesses and shop local.
Businesses are also reopening in Leamington Spa, including some businesses in the town’s Regent Court.
Similar measures have been put in place across the whole of the region, from Nuneaton, Solihull and Coventry, to Swindon, Slough and Chippenham.