Already severely challenged by changing shopping habits and profit-eating business rates, the UK high street has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Despite easing of lockdown restrictions leading to a 45% bump in footfall last week, compared to the prior, following the opening of more stores, the volume of people visiting shops is down 54% year on year.
It will take weeks to get close to parity with 2019 numbers. Time, however, is not on their side. Having lost income they cannot yet recoup online when shops were shuttered, high street retailers are facing an uncertain few months. No surprise then, that some have already started laying staff off and announcing store closures, even before the furlough scheme ends in October.
Physical retail marketers are facing up to some harsh realities. Customers in fear of losing their own jobs are holding back spending, a significant chunk of prospective customers are staying home, and social distancing is curtailing customer experience efforts. It’s a toxic brew. A huge challenge. But not an insurmountable one.