Shopping footfall figures show life was 'more normal' in Notts this summer

Life in Nottinghamshire this summer ‘much more normal than last year’ data suggests with the latest shopping footfalls even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 6:55 pm

In Mansfield, the town’s Four Season’s shopping centre boss Rebekah O’Neill welcomed the return of shoppers, new outlets opening and a sense of ‘normality’ returning following the pandemic. She is now looking forward to a commercially “great Christmas.”

In Sutton, Idlewells Shopping Centre, on Market Street, has also seen “ever increasing” number of shoppers, and things normalising, according to its associate director Chloe O’Donnell.

As coronavirus restrictions lifted in England on July 19, people were allowed back into hospitality and shopping venues without needing to socially distance.

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Sutton town centre: Idlewells Shopping Centre.

According to stats gleaned by Google, which uses data from phones and personal devices to track trends in people's movement, five areas outside of the home, were analysed, including retail and recreation, supermarkets and pharmacies, parks, public transport and workplaces

Figures related to a five-week baseline period, recorded before the Covid-19 crisis.

In Nottinghamshire, average activity across these categories was 1% above normal levels between July and September, up from the summer of 2020, when footfall dropped 11% below the baseline.

Four Seasons Shopping Centre, Westgate entrance.

Across the UK, activity increased from 8% below normal levels last summer, to 3% above this year.

Retail and recreation establishments – such as restaurants, cafes and shopping centres – saw a 17 percentage point increase, matched only by supermarkets and pharmacies.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at accounting company KPMG, said: "Following a period of extensive lockdown, there was certainly pent-up demand from consumers to get out and into stores to enjoy the physical shopping experience they had missed.

"We saw retail sales on the high street grow by nearly 5% in July and online shopping levels fall back as shoppers purchased clothes, shoes and accessories for those much-needed social events."

He said the Euro 2020 football tournament and a period of hot weather in July gave customers plenty of opportunities to celebrate and spend money – though a better summer would have further boosted the fortunes of retailers.

Retail analytics firm Springboard said its own data showed a significant increase in footfall on UK high streets.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said the "absence of easy international travel" increased the popularity of day trips and holidays within the UK this year, providing a boost to high street footfall.

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"In coastal and historic towns the improvement was even greater, demonstrating the appeal of town centres to visitors,” she added.

Google data for July to September in Nottinghamshire shows: Activity in retail and recreation establishments was 6% below normal levels. In supermarkets and grocery stores, it was 2% above usual.

Activity was 46% above pre-pandemic measurements in parks and public spaces and was 14% below the baseline on public transport.

Activity in workplaces was 21% below normal.

The British Retail Consortium said its figures show footfall in high streets, retail parks and shopping centres rose from July to August, but was still below normal.

Kyle Monk, director of insights at the BRC, said: “While it is doubtless that the reduction in restrictions and rise in vaccinations have greatly helped footfall regain ground since last year, it remains well below pre-pandemic levels."

He added retailers are hoping for a further Christmas boost, but that this would "almost certainly fail to materialise" if new Covid restrictions are introduced.

Mansfield’s Four Seasons shopping centre manager Rebekah O’Neill said she was absolutely "delighted” to see normality returning to the popular town centre shopping centre on Quaker Way.

She said “It’s been lovely to see more and more of our customers visiting the centre each week.

"We’ve got some great new shops opening and our retailers are busy. We are very lucky to have such a supportive community and are looking forward to sharing a great Christmas period with them.”

Idlewells Shopping Centre, associate director Chloe O’Donnell said “Here it has been brilliant to welcome back our customers since restrictions were lifted.

"Footfall is ever increasing week on week - naturally, footfall is higher than the same period in 2020. It has been wonderful to see a sense of normality return to Sutton and give us the opportunity to serve our local community.’’

Independent Mansfield store owner Harry Squires, aged 26, opened his store Creative Clothing, in April. The former plasterer developed the business from a hobby, after he was unable to work in his usual job as a plasterer during lockdown.

He started the business from his Mansfield bedroom after finding a gap in the second hand clothing market by selling second hand, retro branded items, Originally from Ladybrook, Harry now lives on Moore Lane.

According to Harry, he is seeing healthy footfalls in his West Gate shop, and increasing numbers of shoppers making purchases.

“We are often busy, but Saturdays are proving to be our busiest days, we are seeing more and more people of all ages and backgrounds coming in.

"My shop is doing really well now, I just think people are just so glad to be able to get out and go shopping again, and they are seeking out shops like mine that offer something a bit different.

“Here, we have adapted the business, we like to be more part of a community, like a drop-in place where people can socialise and shop, it’s really a bit different.

“We have a boxing machine, things like that to draw people’s attention, like a table a football.

"The business is definitely growing since the pandemic, it’s really doing very well. I don’t think I will have to be a plasterer ever again, and I’m so happy able to look after my family, now, after they looked after me.”

"If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, and the furlough scheme, I probably would never have took the plunge to run my own business, the pandemic has helped me, it has been very successful.”

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