ONS: Retail and hospitality bounce back but new habits hard to kick  

by | Apr 22, 2021


The ONS has released the latest research on the effect of the Coronavirus on the UK economy and society

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown

‘’The consumer spending bounce has arrived since shops and restaurants reopened, but early indications show a deep shift in how we shop and dine.

The physical shopping experience is still far from the madding crowd, with footfall overall still at 75% of 2019 levels. Although this may indicate that some people are still fearful of venturing out, it’s highly likely that our new online shopping habits are here to stay.

Our spending has surged over the past week, with the CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases increasing by 8 percentage points from the previous week. However it wasn’t the big blow out that many had predicted, with spending still at 91% of its February 2020 average. Shoppers did splurge more on items considered to be delayable purchases, like clothing and furnishings, relishing the chance to touch fabrics in store once more. Delayable purchases increased by 26% in the week to 15th April to 89% of the average February level.

Large numbers of shoppers are still shunning the high street, with footfall still 65% below levels during the equivalent week in 2019. But footfall at retail parks ticked back up to 98% of 2019 levels. It seems we are turning our backs on narrower streets, busy public transport and jostling shoppers, preferring to arrive by car and keep our distance in the larger stores that retail parks provide. The fact that so many of us are still working from home, is also likely to have kept high streets quieter, a trend that is unlikely to fully unravel.

London used to be known as the centre of the UK’s culinary universe, with the top chefs setting up in the capital but it seems tastes are changing.

As far as table bookings are concerned Manchester far outstripped London on Saturday night. London achieved just 44% of the bookings compared to the equivalent day in 2019 while Manchester saw bookings rebound strongly to 85% of 2019 levels. This may be just a snapshot and the availability of outdoor seating and continued closure of some venues are likely to be key factors but for now the capital no longer seems such a big draw on the restaurant scene.

Table booking figures demonstrate the extent to which the hospitality industry has innovated, to provide an al fresco dining experience. From pergolas over pavements and covers over car parks, the streaterie experience has come into its own over the past week. On Saturday 17 April 2021, estimates for UK seated diner reservations were at 60% of the level seen on the equivalent Saturday of 2019 when it was open all areas as far as the restaurant trade was concerned.

The novelty of eating out appeared to significantly tail off by the end of the week, with a 19 percentage point dip compared to bookings on the Monday 12th April. It’s likely many diners had already had their fill from meals eaten out earlier in the week, and the chilly evenings may have put off  immediate repeat bookings. Restauranteurs will be hoping the more clement weather holds over the next month, until indoor service can resume, but the extra outdoor covers should provide much needed streams of revenue over the months to come.’’



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