Has the return to the high street been enough to save the industry?

It’s safe to say we were all excited about the physical reopening of stores – after almost five months- on April 12th. Whilst online shopping has been able to appease us in some ways, it’s been a dire time for the retail industry, losing the presence of the Arcadia group and Debenhams (who closed the doors of their final branches before moving online last week) on all of our favourite high streets. However, now we finally have been able to get back to the shops, is the retail revival we’ve all been hoping for now on the cards?

The first week shops opened seem to prove so, with footfall between the 11th and 17th April up over 330% more than the year before, during lockdown, showing that shoppers were keen to get out and about, visit their favourite companies and most importantly – spend. What’s different this time to the last time the shops reopened, however, is that shoppers are once again able to try on clothes – unwanted items clothing can either be steamed clean, or simply kept off the shop floor for 48-72 hours.

After time away, customers truly have had an appetite to shop again, as a new phrase for shopping habits was coined called ‘revenge purchases’. People have been keen to treat themselves to investment pieces with money they’ve saved up over lockdown, or simply just because, making their first physical purchase a rather special one. Another success story has been Primark. On the morning of April 12th, keen shoppers queued up in their droves to return to the budget retailer, desperate to bag themselves a bargain. Over the past few weeks Primark have had such a fruitful time, that they’re actually returning around 181 million in furlough cash to the government. Pretty impressive when there was zero trade for the company at all over the four months of lockdown.

One thing that has stopped consumers visiting their local high street has been the weather. The April showers arrived later this year, instead meaning pretty much every day in May so far has been a rather wet one. Despite this, with the summer months again and further restrictions lifting, this should be but a temporary issue. In major cities such as London and Manchester, footfall is starting to rise week on week (with a 4% rise in London last week). As confidence in travelling slowly returns, hotels reopen and we begin to travel and staycation more, people are keen to visit their favourite cities for shopping trips and culture. Each day we get closer and closer to the normality we once knew, and now is a more exciting time than ever to see how the high street responds.