The High Street’s ‘Welcome-Back Wednesday’ will do little to ease the surge in online shopping, forecasts the home delivery expert ParcelHero. It says the end of the first lockdown proved a damp squib for town centre stores and Arcadia and Debenhams 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 or fix the problems facing Arcadia and Debenhams, says the home delivery expert ParcelHero.
It says that 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 2.0, says ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT.
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). That’s not encouraging for the likes of Arcadia Group’s stores such as Topshop and Burtons, and the struggling Debenhams chain, all of which are now in administration.
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 23 November, 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. It’s a move ParcelHero has been calling for since 2015. Overall, though, 24-hour opening will have little effect.
Given the strain on delivery services during the Christmas period, we are expecting to see retailers bring their final order dates forward as Christmas nears.