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UK footfall continued to rebound in March as consumer behaviour stabilises after Covid restrictions, but shopper numbers remain well down on pre-Covid levels.

According to the BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor for March, total UK footfall decreased by 15.4% in the month compared to pre-pandemic figures, which represented 1.2 percentage point improvement from February.

This figure is also is better than the three-month average decline of 15.9% and was comfortably ahead of France (-25.5%), Germany (-37.5%) and Italy (-38.6%).

Footfall on High Streets declined by 17.8% in March, which was 3.1 percentage points better than last month’s rate and an improvement on the 3-month average decline of 19.9%.

Retail Parks saw footfall decrease by 7.3% on pre-pandemic figures, a 5.1 percentage point improvement on February, while shopping centre footfall declined by 35.8%, which was 4.3 percentage points better than last month.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson commented: “March saw another gradual improvement to footfall levels across the UK. As the first full month without coronavirus restrictions in England and Northern Ireland, consumers were able to shop with a greater sense of normality, spurred on by some spring sunshine. While all UK shopping locations enjoyed higher footfall levels than earlier in the pandemic, shopping centres saw a significant improvement for the first time in 2022, as shoppers browsed multiple stores in preparation for the summer season.

“There are many challenges on the horizon as consumer confidence fell to its lowest levels in 16 months. Consumers are now feeling the effects of rising living costs, increased food and fuel prices, and are also anticipating higher energy prices from 1 April. The impact on retail footfall and retail sales across both stores and online is yet to be seen, but as belts continue to tighten and prices continue to rise, it will be a difficult road ahead for consumers.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, added: “As we surpass two years since the first Covid-19 lockdown, we might begin to see where retail footfall trends will settle down as retail resets. With the High Street’s recovery hitting its best performance since October and UK shopper traffic tracking ahead of its European counterparts, retailers’ optimism will be met with a healthy dose of realism.

“While covid-19 restrictions maybe loosening, the nation’s belts may start to tighten as the impact of the cost-of-living squeeze and price inflation accelerates, and the knock-on effect of the energy cap rise and increased National Insurance contributions this month remain unknown as they look ahead into April and beyond.

“However, while price sensitivity may be growing among UK consumers, spending and brand loyalty seem to be ‘stickier’ in-store, with our recent research showing over a third were less price sensitive when shopping in-store compared to when they bought items online, and half felt more loyal to the bricks-and-mortar brands they shop with.”

Morning update

Agriculture group Origin Enterprises has raised its full year earnings expectations after seeing strong trading during the early months of 2022.

The group previously said it saw a strong first half operating performance across all three segments in the period to 31 January 2022, with an expectation to deliver solid growth in earnings for the full year to 31 July 2022.

Since then trading has continued to strengthen across the group. The first half recovery in Ireland and UK has continued into Q3, with favourable on-farm sentiment underpinning performance in Poland and Romania, while its Latin American business is currently performing ahead of expectations.

Therefore, the group now believes that its full year earnings will be higher than the current level of market consensus.

Origin now expects to deliver increased growth in earnings year-on-year, with fully adjusted diluted earnings per share for FY 2022 anticipated to be in the range of 45 to 49 cents.

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has rebounded 1.1% to 7,634.7pts so far this morning.

Early fallers include Deliveroo, down 2.2% to 114p, FeverTree, down 0.9% to 1,761.7p and Sainsbury’s, down 0.8% to 244.1p.

Risers include McColl’s, up another 3.9% to 3.35p, McBride, up 3.1% to 37.9p and Finsbury Food Group, up 1.9% to 74.4p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 fell back 0.5% yesterday to 7,551.8pts.

Shares in troubled convenience retailer McColl’s jumped 61% back to 3.22p yesterday as it continues to negotiate with lenders over its future – with McColl’s putting out a statement saying there was no current material reason for yesterday’s rebound.

Also on the up were FeverTree, up 2.7% to 1,788p, Ocado, up 2.1% to 1,229.5p, Cranswick, up 2% to 3,674p, Sainsbury’s, up 2% to 246p, Tate & Lyle, up 1.9% to 763p, Domino’s Pizza Group, up 1.8% to 383p and Britvic, up 1.8% to 832.5p.

Fallers included McBride, down 6.1% to 36.8p, Nichols, down 3.8% to 1,270p, Pets at Home, down 3.3% to 324p, Finsbury Food Group, down 2.7% to 73p, Bakkavor, down 2.6% to 106.2p, British American Tobacco, down 2.2% to 3,232.5p and THG, down 1.4% to 88.9p.