Retail | 02.09.2021

The Retail Consultancy team at Harper Dennis Hobbs considers a range of trends and topics that affect the retail industry during our work with occupiers, landlords and local councils. Over the coming months, we will use data and analytics to examine these trends in detail across a series of blogs. Below is the first in the series, which looks at the impact of residents’ staycations in the Britain.

After recently returning from breaks in Norfolk and Cornwall, it was hard to avoid conversations amongst the Retail Consultancy team about how bustling the local towns and villages were in both locations. Going abroad for a holiday was how many would expect to spend their pre-pandemic summers and only occasionally having a domestic break. However, much of the British population are returning from a second summer of ‘staycation’ – and appear to have loved it.

One of the (very) few positive outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the behavioural shift amongst British citizens towards the staycation. Exploring the beauty of Great Britain has become the norm over the past year, with research from early 2021 stating that 83% of Brits would prefer a local staycation rather than travelling abroad.

Travel restrictions and general uncertainty have caused many citizens to opt out of travelling abroad and instead flock to British seaside towns and countryside. The introduction of red, amber and green list countries, and paying for COVID-19 tests alongside the possibility of 10 days isolation after the trip further deterred many more holiday makers from foreign travel.

The surge in staycations has benefitted towns and retail centres across Great Britain, with increased tourist footfall boosting local spend. Google Mobility data demonstrates the extent to which different towns have experienced increased footfall in June and July 2021 compared to a 2019 baseline. The districts below are some of the only areas with rises in mobility scores for retail and recreation compared to 2019. It is no coincidence that these happen to be areas popular with staycation tourists.  The uplift in people visiting the retail offers in these towns has increased the vitality and vibrancy of each centre, making them more desirable locations in which to trade.

Source: Google Mobility

Many retail and leisure operators are benefitting from staycations, particularly outdoor brands. Decathlon has reported sales of family tents up 70% from pre-pandemic levels between April and July this year, whilst Halfords sales rose 13.9% like-for-like, driven by a 54.1% uplift in cycling sales. Additionally, Joules has capitalised on the boost in staycation demand by opening stores in five Centre Parcs locations, with a sixth coming soon.

The increase in demand for retail in tourist locations has translated into decreases in vacancy rates for some centres – despite the rise in retailer administrations across the country – which demonstrates the influence of British tourists in these centres. Cromer in Norfolk has seen a relatively large decrease in its vacancy rate, likely fuelled by the 68% increase in retail and recreation mobility across North Norfolk.

Source: Harper Dennis Hobbs; Goad

The towns listed have higher proportions of floorspace dedicated to pubs, restaurants and gift shops compared to the national averages for medium and large towns. These types of units serve the local tourist population, hence receiving high demand over the summer months. Loungers have reported like-for-like sales up 23.7% in the nine weeks from 17 May to 18 July 2021 versus the same period in 2019, stating that staycationing is a driving factor in this uplift. Furthermore, pub group Young’s have been performing ahead of expectations amid the staycation summer, at 95% of 2019 levels thanks to high amount of bookings coinciding with restrictions easing.

Staycations have even transformed into ‘workations’ for some, where remote working enables employees to locate anywhere and finishing work on a Friday means that they are already on holiday. Longer periods of travel are being encouraged by many tourist bodies, as extended stays lead to higher local spend. Skyscanner found that 39% of survey respondents were planning a trip over the typical 14-day break to enjoy an extended holiday, suggesting that workations will become more common.

And it is not only tourists who are driving this trend. The BBC recently showed that coastal towns had amongst the highest residential rent increases due to increased demand from people wanting to escape the city. Rightmove experienced a 115% increase in enquiries about moving from cities to seaside towns to June 2021, compared to pre-pandemic levels. A rise in more permanent residents suggests that the upward trends in footfall and spend in tourist locations will continue. 71% of survey respondents also stated that they intend to book a local holiday after summer 2021 and into 2022, quashing any suggestions that staycations are only a short-term trend, and further supporting future performance of tourist locations.

Staycations provide British consumers with an easily-accessible and relaxing break – much needed given the current stresses being experienced. We, like many others, will continue to holiday in Britain after the easing of travel restrictions. Tourist locations are therefore likely to continue to outperform other types of retail centre, whilst innovative strategies can be used to retain British tourists in a post-pandemic world.


Andy Metherell, Director, Harper Dennis Hobbs


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